Restructuring a tradition: The regionalization of Roman Catholic elementary schools

Eileen Kilbride, Fordham University


Catholic education is a way of preserving and transmitting the theological vision and values associated with Church. The vision for Catholic education has been present before and since Vatican II, yet, declining enrollments, too many school buildings, and the financial burden of operating a Catholic school in every parish are forcing many dioceses to look at changes in the structure of schools and parishes. Catholic schools are closing, consolidating, becoming inter-parochial, centralized, and regionalized. Restructuring of the Catholic elementary school is taking place to meet the demands placed on the Church and the parishioners because of financial problems and the decline in enrollment. This requires a change in thinking about Catholic elementary school paradigms. This is a study of one regional school planning board within a diocese of New York State which is in the process of creating regionally governed Catholic elementary schools. This study examines the emergence of a new paradigm concerned with the control, support, and the participation in school governance and finance in one particular region of one particular diocese. Such a study addresses questions as: How this will occur? What are the dynamics at play? How does the Church, in this particular diocese, create a new sociological entity for its elementary school ministry? What new understanding of Church emerged for the members of the board? The major purpose of this study is to analyze, using change theory, the dynamics involved in consolidating five parish based Catholic elementary schools into a single parish school, with traditional parish support, and a regional school restructured with inter-parish support among four parishes. The restructuring includes school governance, policy making, financing, and school plants. This study describes how those changes came about and the effect of the changes on the distinct groups. It seeks to understand how the regionalization process developed, what helped it work, what hindered it, and the role of leadership in planning for and creating St. Elsewhere Regional School. The literature reviewed for this study included research dealing with planned organizational change, changes in the Catholic parishes and schools, long-range planning and school consolidations for the Catholic elementary school. The research is presented as a case study following the theories associated with the change process. Analysis of the data provides evidence that the process of restructuring from a parish based Catholic school model to a regional based philosophy was successful and did create a new form of Catholic education in the region. The analysis compares and contrasts the study through the four frames associated with Bolman and Deal (1984, 1991) and the five disciplines of Senge (1990). Recommendations are made to look globally at Catholic education and for dioceses to undertake long-range planning, offering regionalization as one means to help alleviate problems associated with financial difficulties and enrollment decline.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education|Religion|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Kilbride, Eileen, "Restructuring a tradition: The regionalization of Roman Catholic elementary schools" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9543455.