Eight schools in seven New Mexico communities are part of four-year program

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FARMINGTON — The Diocese of Gallup has been named a recipient of a four-year grant worth $200,000 to support the sustainability of Catholic schools.

The Gallup Diocese will participate in the Christian Brothers Services’ strategic management and development program with a grant from the Catholic Extension Society, according to a press release from the diocese. The grant will affect eight schools in seven communities throughout the state.

The program focuses on the “long-term vitality and sustainability of Catholic elementary schools," according to Maria Ribera, senior executive consultant for the Christian Brothers Society’s Catholic School Management program.

Ribera and Greg Dhuyvetter, the program’s lead consultant, visited the diocese’s schools this week in the program’s first visit. The pair helped administrators and school leadership begin the process to create a strategic management plan for schools to help keep enrollment up and to engage the school’s larger community.

 “A principal is being called to do everything in a Catholic school anymore,” Dhuyvetter said at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Farmington on Friday. “There’s more and more they’re being asked to do. What Catholic school management is about is about developing a process whereby a principal develops a board, and subcommittees of the board, and subcommittees of subcommittees to do the work that used to be put on one person’s shoulders.”

Jeanette Suter, superintendent of the Diocese of Gallup schools, said she hopes the program allows regional Catholic schools to develop three- to five-year strategic plans that “really think big picture, and also bring a level of training and professionalism to how we run our schools that maybe necessarily haven’t been there in the past.”

“A lot of our administrators came up from the classrooms,” Suter said. “They’re excellent teachers, and of course, you always want to bring your excellent teachers into administration, but in teacher preparation programs, they have a lot of (administrative) things that they’re not prepared for. They don’t necessarily know how a school board should work or … the best practices for fundraising, so this gives them that managerial, operational expertise that they did not get in teacher training.”

The training will also extend to volunteers to give “perspective on the best practices in school management and school administration,” Suter said.

The consultation process involves four-years of on-site consultation, in which Dhuyvetter will visit the schools and work with school leaders six times over the course of each year. He said the program helps schools establish an effective volunteer program that people want to participate in to help lessen the load for school administrators.

“Many times, people don’t like volunteering unless what they’re asked to do is very clear, they understand why it’s very important and they understand how much time it will take,” Dhuyvetter said. “What we’re trying to do is get them very defined projects with all of those things answered.”

Sacred Heart Catholic School Principal Rosalia Beyhan said the project will have a positive impact on her school.

“We find ourselves as a school that is kind of hidden, a best kept secret,” Beyhan said, using one of the program’s catch phrases. “We have some amazing teachers here and some amazing parents and students, so to be able to enhance on that with this team is going to make a big difference in what we see in our school and how we publicize ourselves.”

The program costs approximately $300,000 to participate in, according to Suter. The grant covers 51 percent of the fees, which were offered to the Gallup diocese at a discounted rate. Suter said the diocese will end up contributing about $60,000 to the program over the course of the four years.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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