All parishes to support, strengthen Catholic education

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced on Feb. 18, 2017 a regional education system designed to ensure vibrant and sustainable Catholic elementary schools in the North Hills region as part of the On Mission for The Church Alive! planning initiative.

Effective in the fall of 2017, ten Catholic elementary schools in the North Hills will become a ministry of all 32 parishes in the region, which will provide support for all of the schools (see list of parishes). Each school will continue to have a principal while a regional administrator will supervise operations.

A nonprofit corporation, North Hills Regional Catholic Elementary Schools, Inc., will provide oversight and administration for the schools.

Regionalization is intended to reinforce Catholic schools’ identity and mission; reallocate resources to enhance academic excellence and stabilize tuition and enrollment; and enable greater collaboration in curriculum, technology, professional development, athletics and fundraising.

“The purpose of regionalization is first and foremost to benefit our students and to strengthen Catholic education,” Bishop Zubik said. “This new, regional form of school governance seeks to address concerns voiced by our pastors and parishioners, many parents among them, regarding the financial pressure on parishes that currently sponsor individual schools.”

As in public schools, Catholic elementary school enrollment in the diocese has declined over the past decade, straining budgets, prompting tuition increases and the closing of some schools. Several pastors in the North Hills asked Bishop Zubik for assistance in developing a sustainable model of support for schools.

Before making his decisions, Bishop Zubik and his representatives consulted with the pastors and lay leaders of the parishes that currently sponsor schools, as well as principals, teachers and school parents. Three groups of schools formed task forces to consider options and survey parents. Bishop Zubik approved all of the task force recommendations:

  • Saint Alexis and Saint Alphonsus schools in Wexford will merge to form a new elementary school with two campuses. Pre-K classes will be held at Saint Alexis and grades K-8 will be located at Saint Alphonsus.
  • Saint Bonaventure School in Shaler Township, Saint Ursula School in Allison Park, and Saint Mary of the Assumption School in Glenshaw will merge to form a new school with two campuses. Pre-K classes will be held at Saint Bonaventure and grades K-8 will be located at Saint Mary of the Assumption. The Saint Ursula school building will close in June.
  • Saint Sebastian School in Ross Township and Saint Teresa of Avila School in Perrysville will merge to form a new school with two campuses. Pre-K and Kindergarten classes will be held at Saint Teresa of Avila and grades 1-8 will be located at Saint Sebastian. While the K-8 model is most preferred by parents, the recommendation of Pre-K and Kindergarten at the Saint Teresa site was, in fact, reflective of that particular task force.
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Bellevue and Northside Catholic School in Brighton Heights will develop strategic plans for the 2017-18 academic year. No changes are planned at this time.
  • Saint James School in Sewickley and Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall are not scheduled for reconfiguration, and will operate under the same regional governance structure as the eight schools listed above.

The names of the new schools will be announced later.

The shared governance model is expected to be implemented in the future in all other regions of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Similar initiatives have helped revitalize Catholic elementary education systems in other dioceses.

North Hills Regional Catholic Elementary Schools, Inc. will operate under the leadership of a board consisting of five pastors and four lay persons.  Operation of all schools in the region will be overseen by a regional administrator appointed by the board, Michael C. Killmeyer.

“Our Catholic schools are critical to the future, not just of our Church but of our world,” Bishop Zubik said. “They educate not just the mind, but the heart and spirit as well. We must do everything in our power to strengthen our schools—financially, academically and spiritually—so that they can continue to benefit our children, our communities and our world.”

Stay informed of the latest announcements and information regarding parish and school regionalization at OnMissionChurchAlive.org.