KENOSHA — In 2011, Catholic schools in Kenosha began a “regional” school model that had an effect on every parish school in the city.
“At that point, there were four parish schools still operating in Kenosha and those schools closed, and the regional school opened,” said Jackie Lichter, principal at All Saints Catholic Schools. “It was a difficult time for families in Kenosha when their parish schools closed, there was a lot of sadness … Initially when I was hired in April (2011) we didn’t have one student enrolled because no one knew what was happening. When we opened our doors in August we had 450 students enrolled.”
It took years and multiple tries, Lichter said, before the All Saints regional school model was implemented in Kenosha.
It’s possible a similar model may come to Racine as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee continues to work on a Racine Catholic Schools Collaboration system.
Amy Grau, communication director for the Archdiocese, said officials continue to have discussions with area schools and parishes and anticipate a final plan to be proposed to Archbishop Jerome Listecki in May.
“That plan will detail governance, academic and financial details for the new system as well as recommend an overarching name for the system with each school retaining its own identity,” Grau said. “In the meantime, while that plan is being finalized, a national recruitment search has begun for the position of president of the new school system for Catholic schools in Racine.”
It’s unclear at the moment how a change in Racine Catholic education would affect those already working in the schools.
Lichter said change in Kenosha was difficult for everyone involved.
“When the schools closed, everyone was let go of their positions and had to reapply for a position at All Saints Catholic School,” Lichter said. “The goal was to be able to hire from that pool as best as possible … we did also hire some from outside, especially in middle schools. We were looking for people with more specific licenses for middle school.”
When establishing the regional model, Lichter said, a board was created with pastors and representatives from each of the parishes.
“We eventually grew out of that model board and now we’ve moved to a board of people with specific skills,” Lichter said. “We still have pastors on our board and our pastor is the chair of the board … but we have a person who is an expert in marketing, we have a person who’s an expert in (human resources). We have a refined board now.”
Lichter said roughly two years ago, she and Father Bob Weigher, priest at St. Anne Catholic Church and chair of the board for All Saints, met with Racine priests to talk about the regional model.
“There was definitely interest,” Lichter said. “There was collaboration by the pastors. There was an openness to it.”
Lichter said there are about 640 students attending one of the three kindergarten through eighth grade campuses, and there are 14 parishes supporting All Saints.
There is also St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, a K-12 school that is supported by 10 parishes, Lichter said. In total, there are 1,500 students in the regional model.
“There’s a beauty to the regional model. There’s a spirit of collaboration,” Lichter said. “It’s less competitive and the Catholic schools are able to work together rather than compete against one another. In a situation like Racine, when there’s multiple schools they’re all fighting for the same child because they want to fill their classrooms.”
Since the change, Lichter said, All Saints has unified the community and believes something similar could happen in Racine.
“The Racine Catholic schools, they get along, they have a great community of principals and teachers,” Lichter said. “They have a great working relationship. I suspect this will be well-received by the principals because they’re already doing so much together.”