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Milwaukee Archdiocese Proposes Board To Run Elementary Schools

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Officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee have proposed an apparently unique regional governance plan for 42 elementary schools in southern Milwaukee County.

Under the plan, the 58 parishes served by the schools would relinquish control to a regional board, which would approve funding and curriculum and choose an executive director to run the system.

"This idea came from the parishes," said John Norris, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. "This would put all the schools [in that area] under the governance of one board."

Most Catholic elementary schools are owned and operated by parishes under the general direction of the local diocese or archdiocese. Mr. Norris said he knew of no other diocese in which several elementary schools were controlled by a regional governing board.

"There really isn't anything like this," he said.

The proposal is being made to help ensure the future financial stability of Catholic schools in the region, one of six divisions of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Mr. Norris said.

Under the plan, outlined in a 46-page report by a private consultant, a school board of 15 to 18 members would govern the district, with guidance from the archdiocese. Within three years, it would establish standardized tuition for all the schools, as well as standardized pay and benefits for teachers. Tuition assistance could be offered systemwide.

Archbishop Rembert Weakland approved the idea of creating a regional school system, but left it to the school boards and councils of the 58 parishes to work out the details.

Mr. Norris said school officials, parishioners, and clergy from the region have until Jan. 22 to offer comments about the plan before a task force makes recommendations to the archbishop. The plan outlined in the proposal would take three years to implement, he said.

The archdiocese has gained attention among Catholic educators in the past year for two novel ideas.

Its marketing plan for high schools, which includes television and radio advertising, has been credited with boosting enrollment. Following the Milwaukee example, high schools in the Chicago Archdiocese this fall began their own television and radio advertising campaign.

Earlier this year, a private foundation proposed creating a nonsectarian school system out of the Milwaukee Archdiocese's four inner-city elementary schools, which serve many non-Catholic students. (See Education Week, March 29, 1989.)

An ecumenical board of directors has been appointed for the central-city schools, but the proposal for the nonsectarian system is still under study, Mr. Norris said.--mw

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