Mike Long is the kind of guy you want to chair your local Catholic school board. Not only does he care passionately about Catholic education, but, as chairman of the New York State Conservative Party and a former neighborhood business owner, he brings organizational and financial skills that are needed to keep a school afloat.
For the past five years, Mike has been chairman of the Holy Angels Academy Board of Directors in Our Lady of Angels parish, Bay Ridge. Working in tandem with the school’s principal, Rosemary McGoldrick, Long and the board have increased enrollment by about 100 students and put the school on a firm financial foundation.
Five years ago, Our Lady of Angels School’s enrollment had dipped to less than 175 students, and the diocese recommended closure. A group of concerned parishioners petitioned the diocese to give it a chance as an independent Catholic academy and was granted permission to open with a new governance structure, with the board responsible for the school’s future.
Today, Holy Angels boasts 275 students and sees further growth in its future, all because of the successful partnership among board, principal and faculty.
It hasn’t been easy and the process has demanded a great dedication of time, but it is working. Long credits the professional make-up of the board and the dedication of the school’s principal and administration.
He explains that there is a serious commitment of time. His schedule is flexible enough that he visits Holy Angels Academy at least once a week to check in with Principal McGoldrick and see how things are proceeding. The members of the school board also are planning to attend a day-long workshop at St. John’s University on an upcoming Saturday to advance their own understanding of the workings of a school board.
In addition to the chairman, the Holy Angels board has nine members who include educators, a lawyer, a plant expert and financial business people. A typical meeting includes a review of curriculum, investments, marketing and fundraising.
At a recent meeting, the board reviewed efforts to further involve alumni and heard a report about a successful dinner-dance honoring prominent families in the parish’s educational history.
Long points out that more talented people must step forward to sustain Catholic education. He is continuously searching for people who can contribute to the board.
It’s the same campaign that the diocese has embarked upon as the number of academies continues to grow in Brooklyn and Queens. The diocesan educational plan, Preserving the Vision, calls for all parish schools to transition to the academy model by 2017.
To be successful, strong boards must be in place. That means that professionals from varied fields must be willing to make a commitment of their time and talent to Catholic schools.
“A board of directors brings to the academy the members’ expertise in finance, marketing, recruitment and retention, development, education and grant writing,” says Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, diocesan superintendent of schools. “The Church has recognized that lay men and women, possessing unique talents, abilities and skills, are essential to assist it in maintaining its vital ministries and plan for the future.”
Pastors and principals are looking to identify strong candidates for their school boards. If you’re interested, you should speak to one or the other.