School Choice & Charters

Chicago Catholic Schools Welcome New Chief

By Catherine Gewertz — May 16, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A career Roman Catholic school administrator from Ohio who was named to lead the schools in the Chicago Archdiocese said last week that he is committed to battling a downsizing trend that has closed dozens of inner-city schools in the nation’s largest parochial school system in recent years.

“The thing that draws me to Chicago is the challenge of keeping Catholic schools available to all youths, in cities as well as suburbs,” Nicholas M. Wolsonovich said in an interview. “That isn’t an easy thing, and I’ve always been impressed that the archdiocese is willing to support so many schools having financial difficulty. It puts its money where its mouth is.”

Mr. Wolsonovich’s appointment as superintendent by Cardinal Francis George, announced May 3, comes as the archdiocese is struggling to keep schools in some parishes open. The archdiocese covers Cook County, which includes Chicago, and nearby Lake County. It has lost thousands of students in the past 10 years, mostly in highly urban areas, while enrollment is rising slightly in suburban areas.

Despite channeling $310 million in subsidies to financially ailing schools in the past 20 years, the archdiocese has closed 99 schools in the past 15 years and has opened only two new schools during that period. It currently serves 130,000 students in 312 schools.

Layman Leader

When he assumes the helm in Chicago July 1, Mr. Wolsonovich hopes to become part of the solution to that problem. He has not yet drawn up plans, but he has pledged to facilitate a dialogue within the archdiocese on the future of its schools.

Mr. Wolsonovich, 57, replaces two interim co-superintendents who have been running the archdiocesan schools department since the December departure of Elaine M. Schuster. Ms. Schuster became the chief executive officer of the Chicago-based Golden Apple Foundation after leading the Catholic schools for 10 years. (“Superintendent of Chicago’s Catholic Schools Resigns,” Sept. 6, 2000.)

For 16 years, Mr. Wolsonovich has been the superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, which serves 15,000 students in 49 schools in a six-county area of northeastern Ohio. For two decades before assuming the superintendency there, he held various posts in the diocese and its schools, including serving as a high school teacher of religion and Latin, a principal, the diocesan director of curriculum and instruction, and the director of government programs.

Historically, priests have led Chicago’s Catholic school system. Ms. Schuster was the first layperson to do so.

As a parent himself, Mr. Wolsonovich says he understands the struggles of Catholic-school parents. A widower with three grown sons, Mr. Wolsonovich has remarried and now has three stepchildren. All six attended Catholic schools.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2001 edition of Education Week as Chicago Catholic Schools Welcome New Chief


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Assessment Webinar
Reimagining Grading in K-12 Schools: A Conversation on the Value of Standards-Based Grading
Hear from K-12 educational leaders and explore standards-based grading benefits and implementation strategies and challenges
Content provided by Otus
Reading & Literacy Webinar How Background Knowledge Fits Into the ‘Science of Reading’ 
Join our webinar to learn research-backed strategies for enhancing reading comprehension and building cultural responsiveness in the classroom.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Assessment Webinar
Innovative Strategies for Data & Assessments
Join our webinar to learn strategies for actionable instruction using assessment & analysis.
Content provided by Edulastic

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Explainer Education Savings Accounts, Explained
Four states this year have passed laws allowing any parent to spend public dollars on private school tuition or other education expenses.
17 min read
Illustration with scales holding books and cash
Liz Yap/Education Week/iStock/Getty
School Choice & Charters A Major Reversal on Religious Charter Schools in Oklahoma
The attorney general withdrew his predecessor's opinion that religious groups could not be excluded from the state charter school program.
4 min read
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is pictured Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, during an interview in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond withdrew his predecessor's opinion that had fueled hopes the state might approve religious charter schools.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
School Choice & Charters Opinion A Charter Academy Delivering a ‘Classical’ Education Grows in Popularity
At its core, Great Hearts Academy seeks to foster virtuous human beings, explains the schools' CEO.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters A Proposed Catholic Charter School Is New Test for Religion and Public Education
With a favorable state attorney general's opinion in hand, Catholic officials are set to ask for approval of the first religious charter.
10 min read
Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor speaks during a bill signing ceremony for a bill making it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
Then-Oklahoma Attorney General John M. O'Connor, shown last year in Oklahoma City, issued an advisory opinion last December that bolstered the prospects of charter schools sponsored by religious institutions.
Sue Ogrocki/AP