Identification, Description, and Perceived Viability of K-12 Consolidated Catholic School Systems
Limited research has been conducted on Catholic school viability (James, Tichy, Collins, & Schwob, 2008; Lundy, 1999) and Catholic school systems (Goldschmidt, O'Keefe, & Walsh, 2004). But no research studies have investigated the viability of the consolidated Catholic school system (DeFiore, Convey, & Schuttloffel, 2009). This study investigates the organizational structures within consolidated school systems, factors that led to consolidation, and variables that predict perceived viability of the consolidated model.This study was conducted with the entire known population of K - 12 consolidated Catholic school systems in the United States. Nearly two-hundred school administrators and pastors participated in the study by completing a survey on demographics, finances, factors of consolidation, and perceived viability. Quantitative data analyses using both school system data and individual responses as units of analysis included descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, and multiple regression. Qualitative data analysis included grounded theory coding techniques of open-ended responses.Most Catholic school systems are found in the Great Lakes and Plains regions and located in urban areas, are sponsored by parishes, were established after 1987, and have substantially lower secondary tuition than the national average. Financial challenges, enrollment decline, and centralize administrative responsibilities are the top factors that led communities to adopt the K - 12 consolidated Catholic school system model. Enrollment trend was found to significantly predict viability. As enrollment stabilizes or grows within a system, the system becomes more viable. The system concept, however, has created a division between the system and the supporting parishes, which leads to reduced parish and pastoral support.This study shows that the K - 12 consolidated Catholic school system is a viable model but dependent upon enrollment and high parish subsidies. Although the system model has allowed for efficiencies and financial savings, the consolidated system has become similar to a pseudo-parish, which led to the perception from those surveyed that pastors and parishioners feel isolated from the school, and parents do not feel obligated to support their parish. Communities adopting the consolidated model should strongly consider keeping parishes and pastors involved, gradually reduce parish subsidy, and increase secondary tuition that is in line with the national average.
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