Diocesan News

Saunders County Catholic schools embark on strategic plan

Bishop Neumann High marks 50th anniversary

Story by S.L. Hansen

WAHOO (SNR) - Catholic Schools Week ends today, but these “Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service” continue to educate and inspire, thanks to the dedication of faculty, administration, parents and students in each school.

For Catholic schools in Saunders County – Bishop Neumann High School, St. Wenceslaus Elementary in Wahoo and St. John Nepomucene Elementary in Weston – this dedication is undergirding the development of a new strategic plan that will carry all three schools forward for a decade or more.

“We want to have achievable goals for the short term and we want to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon, studying longer term needs and opportunities,” stated Father Brian Kane, who has been superintendent for the last four years.

He said that a strategic plan is necessary for ongoing success: “We have found that unless a school carves out time to look to the future, our days will always be filled with immediate needs.”

The impetus for the strategic plan effort was Bishop Neumann High School’s 50th anniversary.

“We decided it was the right time to look to the future,” Father Kane explained. He estimated that the last comprehensive plan developed for the high school was back in 2000.

Bishop Neumann has been an exemplary parochial high school since it opened its doors for the fall semester of 1964. It was Bishop James V. Casey who encouraged the pastors of the Wahoo Deanery to create a large central high school that would replace the smaller Wahoo Catholic High.

So, a committee convened, representing the parishes in the area. Today, the parishes that support Bishop Neumann are St. Mary in Cedar Bluffs, St. Joseph in Colon, St. Mary in Davey, St. John in Mead, Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Plasi, St. John in Prague, St. Vitus in Touhy, Ss. Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, St. Wenceslaus in Wahoo and St. John Nepomucene in Weston.

The committee spent three years in planning and fundraising before ground was broken in September 1963. Bishop Casey blessed and laid the cornerstone in April 1964.

The building wasn’t quite completed when 209 students started class Sept. 9 of that year. The unfinished north wing served – if unofficially – as an indoor football practice area until 1983, when it was turned into a chapel and classrooms for art and home economics.

In 1989, overcrowding at St. Wenceslaus Elementary in Wahoo and St. John Nepomucene in Weston led to Bishop Neumann becoming a junior-senior high school, serving grades 7 through 12.

Two building additions were completed in 1996 and 2001. Several recent renovations have ensured that the school is equipped to care for the body, mind and soul of every student.

Indeed, Bishop Neumann graduates are successful in the classroom, on the athletic field and in their vocations. Alumni include one bishop – Bishop Robert Vasa, now Bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif., (’68)  – eight priests, five religious sisters and many faithful laity who serve the community and pass on the Catholic faith to their own children and grandchildren.

The current strategic planning process will enable these successes to continue, for Bishop Neumann High School as well as St. Wenceslaus and St. John Nepomucene elementary schools. Father Kane said that it’s imperative that all three schools are part of the strategic plan as well.

“Our high school is only as strong as our supporting elementary schools,” he reasoned.

Priests, alumni, parents of current and former students, and friends of the schools make up the 16-member strategic planning committee. This includes community members who are experienced in planning, business and finances. They are meeting twice a month through May, which is the scheduled completion date for the planning stage.

Father Kane said the committee gleaned a great deal of knowledge from strategic plans that were recently created for St. Cecilia High School in Hastings and Pius X High School in Lincoln, as well as insight from other schools in the area. They’ve also tapped into the Meitler school study created for the diocese.

“We are looking to ensure our schools are faithful to their Catholic mission and to the mission of the Church,” he said.

The committee is evaluating key issues, such as enrollment, facilities funding and development, staff acquisition and retention, and building fruitful relationships with alumni and other supporters.

“We have spent a lot of time soliciting input from members of the community, parents, students and others who have helped us identify the things our schools are doing well and the areas where we can improve,” Father Kane said.

The strategic plan will address maintaining all three campuses while laying the groundwork for future needs based on expected enrollment. The committee is also considering how to promote the schools and increase enrollment.

“We want to study our successes and our struggles in order to improve and make our schools stronger,” Father Kane said. “As our culture changes, the needs of our students and families change. The beauty of our Catholic faith is its ability to be relevant in any place at any time.”

He concluded, “Our schools will serve young people far into the future because of the love people have for our Catholic faith and for our children.”

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