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Task force issues school report

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

The Inner-City Task Force of the Archdiocese of Omaha has been working hard to make Catholic schools in north and south Omaha the best they can be.

During the past three years, task force members have conducted research on and made several visits to 12 Catholic schools in Omaha that, for demographic reasons, are considered inner city schools.

Those schools are: All Saints, Assumption, Blessed Sacrament, Holy Ghost, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. Bernard, St. Bernadette, St. Mary, Ss. Peter and Paul, and St. Richard.

Although other schools are geographically located in the inner city, these schools were identified as inner city schools because they have special needs, Douglas Quinn, chairman of the Inner-City Task Force, told The Catholic Voice.

This past December, the task force made, in its final report to Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss, several recommendations about how to keep Catholic schools strong in the inner city.

One recommendation, which has been approved by the archbishop for the 2005-2006 school year, is the consolidation of St. Mary School, 5301 S. 36th St., and Ss. Peter and Paul School, 3619 X St. Both schools now share the same principal and a number of teachers. Students from both schools will attend classes at Ss. Peter and Paul next school year.

"The effort has been to make the best possible use of the material resources, the physical structures that are in those parishes or in that area, the educational programming that exists and then the funding of fund-raising possibilities," said Father Michael Gutgsell, moderator of the curia and a member of the task force.

Archbishop Curtiss also approved a task force recommendation to establish a single, permnent Inner-City School Board of Education to oversee and coordinate the efforts for inner-city Catholic schools.

The new school board will report directly to the archbishop and will consist of nine individuals. Seven of the Inner-City Task Force members have volunteered to form the board during its first year, and two representatives of the South Omaha and North Omaha inner city schools will join them. Quinn will chair the new board.

Volunteers from the task force who will now serve on the board are: Father Gutgsell, Sister Michelle Faltus, SFCC, superintendent of Catholic Schools, Judy Tamisiea, Larry Heck, Herman Weist and John Maginn.

Father James Keiter, president of Assumption-Guadalupe schools, and Sofia Kock, principal at Holy Name School, will join them as board members.

The board, which will hold its first meeting Feb. 17, will continue to have representation from the principals and faculties of inner city schools in both north and south Omaha, as well as others with educational backgrounds, clergy and lay people.

Before making these recommendations to Archbishop Curtiss, the task force met with administrators, pastors and lay people involved in committees or subcommittees at the schools and parishes.

"There were many hours of meetings and animated conversations about different ideas why we could, should, couldn't, shouldn't go in one way or another," Father Gutgsell said. "This has been an ongoing and very interactive project."

With the new school board and its efforts, Catholic education will be able to continue and families with children will be able to send their children to Catholic school, he said.

Although sometimes the best way to improve Catholic education is by consolidating schools, Quinn said that's not the goal of the school board. The goal is to keep the schools alive, he added.

"When it makes sense to consolidate, fine, but what we want to do is keep these schools very strong because once you see how much service they are giving to the community, you want to keep them strong and going."

The Catholic Voice

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