June 26-27, 2008
2008 Best Practices Award - Introduction & Citation
Geoffrey T. Boisi

A few years ago we instituted the Leadership Roundtable Best Practices award.  This was an award that was established to recognize and promote best practices in the areas of Church management, finances and human resource development.  The inaugural award was given to the Archdiocese of Boston for its level of financial reporting and for the extraordinary work it did to simplify and explain, and to make public and accessible a comprehensive Archdiocesan financial picture.  It’s been a real gift to the Church.  Last year, the Leadership Roundtable honored the St. Vincent DePaul Society of Baltimore for implementing the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for Nonprofits.  Hopefully you have all had the opportunity to use and review our versions of the Standards for Excellence, and hopefully you will all agree that it to will be a gift to the Church as it is rolled out across the country.  Last year we also honored the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame for the engagement of students and graduates in the leadership of the Church which has been a phenomenal performer and continues to be.

This year, our honoree reflects our emphasis on managerial excellence and visionary leadership.  Tonight, we honor the Diocese of Memphis Catholic School System.  The Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Memphis has established an extremely strong record of visionary leadership and management, a system change for a ten year period of time. 

Bishop Steib articulated a strong and clear vision for the Catholic school mission and values in his diocese, and for reopening and sustaining Catholic schools in the inner urban section of his city.  Dr. Mary C. McDonald, the superintendent of the Catholic school system, has carried out that mandate in an extraordinary fashion over the last few of years. 

The schools office developed a clear ten-point statement of beliefs which guides the planning, the management, the development, and the evaluation of all the Catholic schools.  The statement incorporates goals of faith formation, individual human development, supportive learning environments, high academic achievement, standards, performance, and collaboration and communication.  It’s a real benchmark for the country and as you learn more about it I think you’ll see why we feel so strongly about it. 

They also have developed a statement of system wide student expectations across seven formation skill sets.  Performance and accountability requirements for teachers as well as students are set and maintained.  Given the kinds of philosophies that you have heard coming from us for the last five years, you know that that is all music to our ears. 

In 1999, Bishop Steib challenged the Memphis community to collaborate to reopen 8 Catholic primary schools that had closed.  These schools are called “Jubilee” schools, and they were reopened and now enroll over 1,200 students.  Private foundations and businesses donors contributed to the creation of the Catholic Memphis Urban Schools Trust that they created and that is currently capitalized at over $45 million.  This trust, with the public board, and transparent accountability, enables the jubilee schools to operate without debt, charging going rates of tuition by supporting lower income student families to pay the tuition rates.  The Catholic schools of Memphis reports student achievement rates that are superior to those of public schools in their same neighborhood.  Memphis Catholic High School has incorporated strong partnerships of the business community by offering work experience internships with 28 Memphis businesses for students that want to participate in them.  They have combined the ultimate motivation: a great education for kids, an understanding of the world of work, and they’ve developed that with an accountability system for everybody in the chain.  The enrollment in the Catholic Memphis schools has grown to its highest level since 1975.  They grew from 6,400 students in 1996, to just shy of 8,800 students in 2007.  Every school in the diocesan school system, plus the system itself, has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is only the second diocese that we are aware of that has accomplished that.

Citation: Best practices award to the Diocese of Memphis Catholic School System, in recognition of your outstanding commitment to excellence and visionary leadership in Catholic education, presented by the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, June 26, 2008.