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


English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 

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 Opinion The Biden Administration Is Right: Charters Need to Be More Accountable
The proposed changes to the federal Charter School Program are just common sense, write Jitu Brown and Randi Weingarten.
Jitu Brown & Randi Weingarten
3 min read
Illustration of students and teachers holding puzzle pieces.
<b>F. Sheehan/Education Week and iStock/Getty</b>
School Choice & Charters What's Behind the Fight Over the Biden Administration's Stance on Charter School Funding
Proposed new rules for federal charter school funding have drawn the ire of many in the charter school community.
8 min read
Publish Charter school parents stage a counter protest as thousands of public school teachers, administrators and supports march through the streets of Sacramento during a protest held at the California State Capitol urging state legislators to provide more funding for public schools in Sacramento, Calif., on May 22, 2019.
Publish Charter school parents stage a counter protest during a march in Sacramento, Calif., that advocated for more funding for public schools in 2019.
Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP
School Choice & Charters Opinion Families May Like Their School But Want More Options. That’s Where Course Choice Comes In
Educational choices have grown inside each school as a result of the pandemic. Families should take advantage of this.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Mich. Public School Advocates Launch Effort to Stop DeVos-Backed Proposal
The former secretary of education is backing an initiative that advocates say would create an unconstitutional voucher system.
Samuel J. Robinson,
4 min read
Student with backpack.