Saint Catherine of Siena Church
Statement of Parish/School Relationship
October 11, 2017
The School is comprised of approximately 100 students, with a slight majority in the pre-school age range. Although the majority of families (approximately 50 out of 60 families) reside outside Parish boundaries, a significant number of the School families have become outstanding examples of faithfulness and support of the Parish.
The Montessori approach to education does not easily dovetail with traditional School categories (pre-school, K-8). The Montessori Method is based upon the discoveries of Dr. Maria Montessori regarding the development of the human person from birth to adulthood, particularly her Four Planes of Human Development. A Montessori classroom is a specially prepared environment designed to meet the needs of children in each stage of their development (academic, social, emotional and spiritual). The adults guide the children in their own self-directed activity within the principle of freedom within limits. Montessori is a very individualized approach which takes into account the unique dignity of each child.
Characteristics of a Montessori classroom include:
- Mixed age environments corresponding to the Planes of Development
- A choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted work periods, ideally three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon
- Children learn concepts from working with specially designed materials, rather than by direct instruction
- A thoughtfully prepared environment in which materials are organized by subject area, within reach of the child, and are appropriate in size
- Freedom of movement within the classroom
- A trained Montessori teacher who follows the child and is highly experienced in observing the individual child's characteristics, tendencies, innate talents, and abilities
The School -- not by original intention but over time -- has become to some extent, a “feeder” school to the nearby Opus Dei schools.
In many respects, the School is a hybrid Parish/diocesan entity. On the one hand, most School families reside outside the boundaries of the School, as most families reside outside the boundaries of diocesan high schools. On the other hand, many of the families have become active in the broader Parish, truly contributing according to their talents to the life of the Parish and presumably will continue long after their children leave the School. The hybrid nature of the School is among the reasons this narrative of relationship is helpful and necessary, especially with respect to questions of finance and administration.
The management approach accentuates subsidiarity: “A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1833).
This approach has a tendency to sustain morale because administrative and academic responsibility are closely connected to organizational authority. Fiscal discipline is enhanced when decisions are made by those who have the most knowledge of the organization within the context of the “balanced operating budget” Parish policy. The Pastor has the typical overall pastoral responsibilities for the Parish, including oversight of the School’s administration. The Head of School has considerable leeway in running the School within the framework of overall Parish and Diocesan guidelines and policies.
The Head of School reports to the Pastor in matters of religious education, administration, and finance. The Head of School reports to the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools in academic matters (including the “Design for Excellence” program). The Head of School has oversight over academic and personnel matters. The Head of School handles all school-related issues (as discussed below).
Parents should direct all academic and administrative questions to the Head of School. Any financial or budgetary questions should also be directed to the Head of School or members of the School finance council. The Head of School should heavily rely on the competence of the School finance council and make their names known to the parents.
Parents should be encouraged to contact the Head of School and/or members of the School finance council to place their concerns on the agenda of the quarterly School finance council meetings. The School finance council minutes should be made available to the parents but need not include items that are reasonably confidential.
In general, the Pastor very much prefers School parents to honor the model of subsidiarity that has been set up and only in truly extraordinary circumstances should parents work outside the School framework. Before an appeal to the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools is made, for example, a parent should be certain of the grave necessity of working outside the School hierarchy.
The Pastor directs and moderates the religious education program of the School as well as sacramental preparation. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Program has proven to be acceptable and reliable, subject to Parish policies. As a rule, First Communion takes place at age 7, the customary “age of reason.” Hence, children to receive First Holy Communion must be 7 years of age by the end of the final month of the School year (June). The Pastor will also work with the Head of School and teachers to ensure the proper memorization of prayers, behavior at Mass, Confession protocol, etc.
The long-time practice of Opus Dei priests hearing Confessions on Monday -- open to the children of the School -- is acceptable and praiseworthy.
The weekday Mass schedule has been adjusted in part to allow the children to attend daily Mass rather than just once a week (as is customary in most Catholic schools).
The Head of School in close consultation with the School finance council prepares the annual operating budget (ordinary income less ordinary expenses). As a matter of fiscal discipline, the Pastor requires a balanced operating budget with actual deficits or surpluses rolling forward to the next fiscal year. (A slight surplus at the end of the 2016-17 school year rolled forward to the next fiscal year.) The Pastor uses his position as the final authority for the staff and teacher contracts to ensure a balanced budget. He also monitors spending during the course of the year against the annual School budget.
The Head of School should be cost-conscious with a healthy sense of frugality in expenditures, always vigilant in avoiding wasteful and extravagant spending.
The Pastor consults with the canonical Parish finance council (separate from that of the School) in all significant financial matters -- including the School budget -- in quarterly meetings.
In the past, the Parish has provided classroom and Parish hall facilities without charge and this practice will continue. The cost of major repairs and replacements (e.g., HVAC equipment, replacement windows, concrete and asphalt repairs, etc.) are paid by the Parish. However, major expenditures peculiar to the School (e.g., special storage facilities) are paid by the School.
The School is labor-intensive compared to other Catholic schools due to the Montessori professional training requirements as well as a lower teacher-to-student ratio. The School aims to pay competitive salaries (based on published Association Montessori International (AMI) pay scales) compared to the other Montessori schools in the area to attract highly qualified Montessori teachers. Additionally, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (Atrium) is central to the unique mission of the school and requires an additional specially trained staff member (Catechist) in each environment. Finally, the pre-school (Toddler and Primary environments) are subject to state licensing requirements regarding child-to-adult ratios in the classroom.
Hence, the pay and benefits for teachers and staff for this School of 100 pupils are roughly equivalent to the pay and benefits of K-8 diocesan schools with 200 or more students. Tuition rates are also necessarily higher than other schools. Although some financial aid is available, the School is usually accessible to families with sufficient financial means. So it is not envisioned that families would receive Parish assistance (beyond what is offered by the School programs and allocations from Diocesan funds).
Tuition and fees are set by the Head of School in consultation with the School finance council (includes net tuition after in-house discounts plus diocesan tuition assistance). There is a necessary mathematical budgetary tension between tuition and School pay and benefits.
It is an expectation of the Office of Catholic Schools (as reported in the annual Enrollment and Viability Report) that tuition cover 100% of salaries and benefits.
The calculation of the Tuition to Pay and Benefits ratio will be as follows: Gross tuition plus fees less sibling discounts less Diocesan tuition assistance = “Net Tuition” for purposes of calculating the ratio (before School tuition assistance). The Net Tuition to Pay and Benefits ratio must be at least 100%. In addition, at least 75% of the families must pay the full tuition rate (less sibling discount, if applicable). Tuition rates must necessarily increase – with a ratio that exceeds 100% -- if a budget deficit is forecast.
What is not covered by tuition, must be covered by donations and fundraising and the requirement for a balanced operating budget requires comprehensive vigilance over all income and expense components.
Pay rates for teachers and staff are also set by the Head of School in consultation with the School finance council. The Pastor signature approves staff and teacher contracts when he is assured that the proposed annual School budget is reasonable. Always subject to the terms of the standard Contract of Employment, the Pastor reserves the right to direct the Head of School to reduce pay rates or eliminate positions in order to balance the operating budget.
Before the start of the School year, the Head of School prepares a facilities usage plan for the Pastor’s approval. The facilities usage plan will also describe in sufficient detail expected use of decorations, banners and the like in support of fundraising efforts. The decorations should be discreet and subdued, appropriate for the vestibule of a church and not conflicting with high liturgical feast days. The School will be receptive to the Pastor’s friendly interventions when decorations, banners, and the like need to be adjusted as a matter of church aesthetics.
The Head of School is to ensure that persons using the facilities are authorized and conduct their activities under the auspices of the School and/or Parish. The Pastor should be informed for his approval for facilities usage by all outsiders. Accordingly, the Head of School should be vigilant in keeping him informed. Paid tutors (for various purposes) may be approved, but generally, the routine use of the facilities by outside contractors will be restricted and be kept to a minimum. The Pastor reserves the right to revoke permissions as he deems fit.
In general, Parish and School facilities will not be available for use by outsiders.
In the main, the School uses the classroom space, space shared part-time by the Parish’s religious education program. The School also is the primary user of the enclosed playground area. The Pastor approves the use of Parish Hall according to the annual facilities usage pattern and as specifically approved for periodic events. Parish Hall is primarily a facility for adult use and activities, with a secondary purpose for School plays and the like. It is generally not to be used for everyday children’s activities, with exceptions specifically approved by the Pastor. School staff and teachers are responsible for monitoring the children to prevent or correct behavior that is unsafe or damaging to facilities.
Physical alterations to the classroom space and the addition of equipment require the Pastor’s approval. The Pastor reserves the right to intervene for purposes of safety or appearance.
The School sponsors fundraising events every year that need to be approved by the Pastor (approval is typical). The Head of School, in cooperation the School finance council, will submit an annual fundraising event plan to the Pastor for his approval. The Pastor warmly encourages widespread Parish participation in these fundraising events, as well as an openness to directing monthly donations to the School if they see fit. (Indeed, the Pastor encouraged a pulpit appeal that resulted in a balanced budget in June 2017.) Efforts should be made to ensure that the “pool” of potential benefactors not be limited to Saint Catherine parishioners, but includes donors outside the Parish as well.
An integral part of fundraising should include a readiness to demonstrate frugality and cost-control in School staffing and expenditures.
Donations are encouraged and they are received in the mail and through Faith Direct.
Faith Direct is the internet-based monthly contribution platform that is accessible to all parishioners. The Pastor has made available to families the option to split their tithe at their discretion between the Parish and the School. Families wishing to direct a portion of their giving to the school should select Siena Academy (Monthly) under the Recurring Gifts section on Faith Direct.
The Head of School is responsible for expecting all personnel to comply with Diocesan policy requirements in terms of pay, benefits (including vacation time and sick leave), on-the-job behavior as well as living a life compatible with the Catholic faith. The Head of School should work closely with the Office of Catholic Schools, the Chancery’s Employee Benefits Office, and the Parish’s payroll processor as necessary. The Pastor is free to intervene on personnel matters he sees important – or detrimental – to the life of the Parish. The Head of School is responsible for ensuring that staff, teachers, and volunteers comply with the Chancery’s Office of Child Protection policies.
The Head of School will maintain a listing of all personnel who have keys or combinations to the facilities. The duplication of keys is prohibited and could result in termination of employment or other disciplinary measures.
Only authorized personnel should be allowed in the School. The Pastor, through the maintenance staff, will endeavor to keep the Head of School informed when it is necessary for outside contractors to access School facilities.
Bookkeeping duties have been carefully assigned for purposes of efficiency and low-cost administration. Hence there is one checkbook for the entire Parish administered by the rectory bookkeeper; payroll administered by an outside professional, and tuition administered by the School.
Tuition management – including the management of FACTS – is the responsibility of the School.
The School records donations received in the mail and the School acknowledges the donations according to IRS requirements. The Pastor has recently approved (January 2017) contributions through Faith Direct. All Faith Direct contributions are integrated into the rectory contribution record-keeping and contribution acknowledgment procedures.
School payroll is administered by an outside professional with the biweekly payroll expense allocations recorded by the rectory bookkeeper. Benefits are programmatic, according to the Diocese of Arlington Employee Benefit policies.
The rectory bookkeeper manages the School general ledger. As a matter of good bookkeeping practices, there is only one checkbook for both church and School. At the moment, the School does not pay for the services of the rectory bookkeeper because those services are considered contributions. The value of this contribution is likely around $10,000 or more and makes it unnecessary for the School to hire a bookkeeper.
The Pastor will appoint at least one School parent as a representative to his Parish Council and will make the name(s) available for consultation by the school families. School families are encouraged to bring their concerns directly to the Head of School, members of the School finance committee or the parent representative to the Parish Council. This will provide an orderly structure by which the Pastor is informed and, if unresolved, consulted.
The Pastor will not normally be available for direct consultation and questions of School business but he will work through those designated representatives including the Head of School. In general, the Pastor will routinely direct School questions to these representatives for their consideration and resolution. If necessary, he will consider concerns presented to him by the Head of School, School finance council or School representative(s) to the Parish Council.
School parents are encouraged to “work the system” and avoid unnecessary conversations and conjecture that can be disproportionate, disruptive and unjust.