Chicagoland

Superintendent looks forward to upcoming academic year

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
August 8, 2018

Catholic schools Superintendent Jim Rigg at a Scholastic Showdown at Christ Our Savior School in South Holland in 2017. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

As parents and children shop for school supplies and teachers prepare their classrooms for the coming school year, Chicago Catholic asked Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic schools, what his hopes and expectations are for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Chicago Catholic: What changes will parents, students and members of school communities notice as the Office of Catholic Schools implements the new strategic plan? 

Jim Rigg: Now that we have completed the first year of “Renewal and Hope,” our strategic plan for Catholic schools, we are reflecting back on the past several months to measure the plan’s impact. So far, we feel satisfied in the progress of the plan and are starting to notice significant momentum in key areas. 

In the year ahead, we will work through our plan to continue to strengthen the quality and vitality of our system of Catholic schools. Our families and other stakeholders will notice an emphasis on making our early education programs even stronger. 

Much research, both locally and nationally, has indicated that building literacy in early grades is fundamental for later academic success. As such, we are continuing to heighten our programming and attention for quality preschool and kindergarten programs. We are also looking to expand our technology-based blended learning programs, dual-language immersion programs and other exciting initiatives.

In the year ahead, our strategic plan for Catholic schools will continue to dovetail with Renew My Church as we revitalize our local church. We will be aligning our plan with the Renew My Church strategies for ministerial and evangelization renewal. This will call us to look at how our schools teach, reflect and live out our Catholic faith, and how our schools work with — and benefit from — strong ministries within our parishes.

When it comes to faith formation, I see schools as a prime opportunity. Each year, we welcome over 75,000 students for at least seven hours a day, nine months a year. We have the opportunity to impact these children and their families in deep and profound ways. As we live out Renew My Church, I am confident that our schools can and should be on the vanguard of holistic spiritual renewal.

Chicago Catholic: What are you most looking forward to this school year? 

Rigg: At the moment, I am most looking forward to seeing students back in our classrooms. While the summer is a productive time of year, I miss the presence and passion of the young people. 

I am also looking forward to hosting the convention of the National Catholic Educational Association. In April, we will welcome several thousand Catholic educators from across the country to Chicago for a three-day conference. This will be a great chance to learn, compare ideas and show off our wonderful city.

I am also thrilled to begin implementing the new tax credit scholarship program in our state. This is an enormous opportunity for our families, and helps to address the perennial challenge of affordability. 

We know that many families struggle with the cost of tuition, and that affordability is the top reason why more families do not come to our schools. This program is making an important difference in our efforts to make a Catholic education accessible and affordable to all families, regardless of their economic background.

Chicago Catholic: What are the early indications about scholarship tax credits have affected enrollment? Have any areas seen more participation than others? Are the benefits spread between high schools and elementary schools?  

Rigg: We have worked extremely hard to implement tax credit scholarships since the passage of the education budget bill in August 2017. Our efforts have included raising general awareness, soliciting funds for tax credit scholarships from donors and working to enable as many of our families as possible have access to this great opportunity. 

To date, thousands of Catholic school families have applied for scholarships. Demand so far has been four times the available funds, demonstrating the enormous interest in a Catholic education by new and current families. Statewide, most of the scholarships have been allocated for Cook County and the northern counties of Illinois, including Lake. Families attending both elementary and secondary are benefiting in the coming year.

It is worth pointing out that we are still soliciting funds for tax credit scholarships. Our website offers more information at schools.archchicago.org/tax-credit-scholarships.

Chicago Catholic: What can families and parishes do to support Catholic education for all the children in their communities? 

Rigg: I believe wholeheartedly that Catholic school education is essential for the future of our church. In our Catholic schools, we are doing no less than educating the next generation in the knowledge and faith they need to be successful in a 21st century world. I encourage families and parishes to learn more about the array of schools and services we provide. 

If a family has school-aged children, they should seriously consider the numerous advantages of a Catholic school education. 

For parishes, I would hope they would understand the enormous benefits our schools represent. I believe that a strong school benefits a parish, and a strong parish benefits a school. As we strive toward a hope-filled future, I know that schools can help lead the way in renewal across our archdiocese.

Topics:

  • catholic schools

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