June 2, 2017

Spirit of ‘we’ leads to special grant for East Deanery schools

By John Shaughnessy

For Msgr. Paul Koetter, the special gift of $225,000 represents more than one of the current great success stories in the Indianapolis East Deanery.

The gift also represents potential success stories in the future—as grade school and high school students in the deanery will benefit from the funds being used for programs that promote education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The success stories—current and potential—are the result of a unique collaboration called the Eastside Catholic School Partnership, a partnership among Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School and the elementary schools of Holy Spirit, St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Since 2010, the four schools have worked together to strengthen the quality of a Catholic education on the east side of Indianapolis, combining their resources and their ideas to enhance enrollment, marketing and planning efforts.

The partnership has worked so well that a Catholic family—who wishes to remain anonymous—has donated $225,000 so the schools can collaboratively increase their STEM education efforts.

“It’s a Catholic family here in the archdiocese,” says Msgr. Koetter, the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis. “The wife has been a teacher and has an interest in the STEM effort. The family has been very supportive of Catholic endeavors of different kinds.”

The gift is the latest reason to celebrate the partnership, according to Joseph Therber, president of Scecina High School.

“Our partnership has built a spirit of ‘we’ not ‘me,’ ” Therber says. “Shared liturgies, professional development, brainstorming among school and parish leaders, marketing our four schools as one vibrant ministry, and the recent fantastic grant for STEM opportunities have all had positive impacts on relationships and school vitality.”

When the partnership first started, one of its main efforts was to focus on increasing enrollment, says Msgr. Koetter, who leads the partnership’s board that include the pastors, presidents and principals of the parishes and the schools involved. Now that enrollment has stabilized and increased, the focus is on increasing the quality of the education—and communicating the benefits of that quality Catholic education to the community.

“Just this past spring, we put out an information postcard to all the families in our areas to advertise the schools,” Msgr. Koetter notes. “It was something we did together, and that’s kind of unique. Parishes in the past have operated as independent silos. Cooperation is an area where we need to be growing on so many different levels. Parishes still need their own identity, but the quality of what we do improves when we work together.”

The partnership creates opportunities for combined training for teachers, and improves the ability of the schools to attract better speakers, Msgr. Koetter says. It also helps the three elementary schools—the dominant feeder schools for Scecina—dovetail their teaching with the approaches at the high school.

“The impact on Scecina has definitely been positive,” Therber says. “East Deanery pastors, principals and teachers are physically inside Scecina for more programs and meetings than ever before.

“Our students see their parish leaders at Scecina and vice versa. When a deanery pastor, principal or teacher speaks of Scecina as ‘our parish high school,’ you get a warm feeling about the identity and future of Scecina.”

Therber gets the same feeling about the partnership.

“We are working as one shared ministry, not as four distinct schools.” †

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