Schools get grants to cover sustainability project

Six Catholic schools in Arkansas are sharing a $105,000 grant from Catholic Extension to assist “struggling” schools in mission dioceses.

The Diocese of Little Rock was chosen as one of two dioceses given the grant. The other diocese is Gallup, N.M.

The four-year School Sustainability Initiative Grants are going to:

• Little Rock: St. Edward, St. Theresa

• North Little Rock: North Little Rock Catholic Academy, Immaculate Heart of Mary

• Hot Springs: St. John

• Morrilton: Sacred Heart

Each school will contribute $10,500 over four years to pay for the consultant with $141,000 covered by Catholic Extension and its partner, Catholic School Management.

The principals and pastors of these schools will meet Feb. 6 for a video conference with Catholic School Management, a division of Christian Brothers Services, to look at ways to strengthen school boards and their effectiveness, enhance their school image and communication, raise more money and improve managing enrollment and marketing.

Catholic Extension said this initiative will be a “hands-on program” where onsite consultants will visit the six schools every other month.

The grant was only available to dioceses whose schools are serving or could serve poor children. It will cover 69 percent of the program costs; the remaining 31 percent will be covered by the schools. In the first and second years each school will have to pay $1,000. In the third year, the school will pay $3,500 toward the consultation and in the final year it will pay $5,000.

When the consultants travel to the school several times each school year, they will also engage with the pastor, board members and volunteers.

Superintendent Vernell Bowen said the schools are not necessarily “struggling,” but they serve or could serve poorer children. She said the grant isn’t supposed to help the schools decide if they should close or consolidate.

“I looked at the grant and I applied because I wanted to make sure these schools had strategic plans and viability for the future,” she said. “They (the consultants) are there to help the schools become better at what they do. The schools have to be committed to the process and the expense.”

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