One of my Google Alerts led me to an article about the impending retirement of Patricia Tierney, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of St. Augustine. Ms. Tierney is in her 29th year as the diocese's educational leader and will be stepping down this June.
As I dug into this story a bit I found myself impressed with the achievements of the diocese under her leadership. For example, during the last 20 years St. Augustine has built 10 new Catholic schools and has more than doubled their student enrollment.
Yes, like the rest of Florida, the population of the Diocese of St. Augustine has been booming, but this only partially explains the growth in their Catholic schools.
When Ms. Tierney took over in 1980 the diocese had 1,065,000 Catholics. Today that number is about 1,900,000, an increase of about 78%. During the same time period, however, the number of students attending the diocese's Catholic schools is up some 112%.
Discounting the growth in the number of Catholics, school enrollment would still be up about 19% over those 29 years, which is a remarkable feat given what has transpired in most dioceses over the same period.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the success of Catholic education in St. Augustine is that the diocese has allowed each of their elementary schools to remain a true parish school, thus giving the parish - and the parents - a level of ownership totally absent in DOR's MCCS. This parish-level control has allowed each school to thrive while still remaining a member of a wider community of schools.