There are many types of planning processes that Catholic schools are presented with – from their diocesan Catholic School Office, from the state in which they reside, from regional or national agencies, and even from some consulting firms. Some take the form of evaluations and accreditations; others take the form of five year planning efforts; and others are launched because parish and/or school leaders want to build a stronger vision and plan for the future.

ISPD frequently recommends that Catholic school’s strategic growth planning draw from the National Standards and Benchmarks of Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools to examine the four key areas of schooling: Mission & Catholic Identity, Academic Excellence, Governance & Leadership, and Operational Vitality.

Here at ISPD, we believe it is essential for Catholic schools having a clear vision and plan for improving in the future in these four areas. We also believe that there is a choice on how a Catholic institution goes about planning for the future. Do you want to approach planning from a development stance or from a “let’s get it done” stance? Is your planning effort going to involve just the leadership of your parish and/or school, or is it going to reach out and invite new voices and untapped talent? Are you going to seek input from those with whom you feel comfortable or are you going to invite those with various views and opinions to come to the table?

A planning effort needs to invite and engage people. If you are planning the future of your Catholic school, why limit your input to parents, board, faculty and staff, and alumni? Why not invite leaders from other schools? Why not invite experts in the fields of technology, academics, athletics, student life, finance, development, administration, and buildings and grounds? On the parish level, why limit your planning to only those people who make up your parish roster? This is planning done from a development stance: inviting and engaging people to become part of your future.

Will they come and help you? YES! People believe in your school’s mission and want to see it thrive. Catholic schools can be the recipients of much wisdom if we will open up our doors and invite people inside. Four keys before you invite someone:

1. Know why you are launching the planning process.
2. Make sure there is objectivity built into the process.
3. Make sure there is an outline that shows anyone how you will move forward.
4. Make sure you are prepared to hear and respect what others have to say – even if it is different from your own.

Why be reactive when you can be proactive? The basic steps are not that difficult:

Assessing the school’s strengths and challenges
Establishing the steering committee
Researching best practices
Gathering school community input (faculty, parents, alumni, parishioners, etc.)
Conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
Updating mission and vision
Defining planning areas
Articulating key challenges
Inviting many to help solve the challenges
Prioritizing challenge and SMART solutions
Finalizing the Strategic Growth Plan
Implementing the plan

ISPD provides a time-tested process to assist schools in developing not only a relevant and impactful Strategic Growth Plan but also, perhaps more importantly, the people who are willing to invest in ensuring a successful implementation.