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Norfolk Catholic builds on past, looks to future with strategic plan

June 8, 2018

When Norfolk Catholic School started developing its strategic plan, there were two major goals that kept surfacing.

Dr. Don Ridder, who is the Norfolk Catholic School president, said one was the goal to unify and engage the entire school and parish family around the mission of “Walking with you to meet Jesus.” The other was its desire for enhanced academic rigor and excellence.

With those ideas in mind, the strategic planning committee was tasked with creating the plan that ultimately produced 10 domains, for which more specific goals and objectives were outlined.

“It was a good thought-out process,” Ridder said. “What it did was it really got everything out to take a look at what’s really going on that’s great at Norfolk Catholic — which there’s a ton of it — and what are some things that we can do to continue to get better.”

The strategic planning committee was made up of Ridder, administrators, advancement representatives, board members, teachers, parents and community members. The five-year plan the committee members developed focuses in the areas of mission and Catholic identity; governance, ownership and staffing; academics; technology; advancement; finance; enrollment; student life, activities and athletics; facilities, grounds and safety; and school and community relations.

While the implementation of the strategic plan will officially begin in the fall, Norfolk Catholic has already started taking steps toward its goals.

For example, it was announced in April that the school hired a director of spiritual formation, which was identified as an area to improve upon for Norfolk Catholic. The position was referred to as campus minister in the past.

“The idea there is he’d be working with all staff and really giving them a chance to learn and be more involved with walking with Jesus, talking with Jesus ...,” Ridder said. “We want our staff to do more stuff like that so that we know when they’re there, they can do more of that with our students.”

The director, Kevin Manzer, will also teach high school theology classes.

In terms of academic excellence and rigor, one of the things Ridder said he was excited about was increasing dual credit options for students. The school has added three dual credit classes and will be bringing in two Wayne State College professors this coming school year to teach college-level English composition and speech classes.

Norfolk Catholic students will also have the opportunity to participate in Fridays @ Northeast starting in the fall, which will allow them to take college courses on Northeast’s campus on Fridays.

Also, while the school has plans to do more with technology, one major goal that’s been met is implementing a one-to-one technology program for seventh through 12th grades.

″(These) things are just things that are important to grow the school and to make the school something that people in the community want to be a part of,” said Eric Dendinger, Norfolk Catholic school board president. “We always have to be growing and improving just to make sure we’re giving a good service.”

Dendinger, who graduated from Norfolk Catholic and has been a part of its board for seven years, said he’s participated in the school’s strategic planning process before and is excited to see the most recent plan implemented.

Other highlights of the plan include growing enrollment, Ridder said.

Norfolk Catholic wants to build upon its Early Learning Center, which he said was a great way for families to be introduced to the school. The center also gives children the opportunity to build a relationship with Jesus starting at a young age, Ridder said.

Ridder also said Norfolk Catholic is built to accommodate three tracks per grade level, so increasing the number of students is an important part of the strategic plan.

But, ultimately, every piece of the strategic plan was built with the idea to serve Jesus, Ridder said, and he and Dendinger were appreciative of everyone who helped craft it and will be responsible for carrying it out.

“Catholic schools, and probably any parochial school, I’m always amazed at how these schools thrive because of all the people who care and who put their time in,” Dendinger said. “When I went to school here, you have no idea how many hours and how much volunteer work and how much time from staff and administrators it takes to take a strategic plan like this and make it work.”

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