Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I spent all of Monday receiving payments and registration information of the different vendors that were going to participate in the Leadership Conference of August 7. This task, while not in any way related to history, is nonetheless demanding and good preparation for what one could expect in the real world as conferences and big meetings approach. Part of the complication throughout the day was receiving multiple emails of vendors confirming that they had paid, or receiving from fellow employees, duplicate emails of receipts of paid vendors. Hence, it became my responsibility to sort out all the information, toss out the duplicate emails, and enter them into a database with all the information of the participants attending.

This conference is one that is held every year to kick-off the school year. Principals and personnel from schools attend, as well as the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents (now called Regional Directors) to inform all the schools on what to expect and what to do in the upcoming school year. Along with them, vendors from different affiliates of the Office of Catholic Schools come along, like Van Gogh pictures and FedEx.

One of the major topics which will be hit on is the new campaign launched by the Archdiocese, To Teach Who Christ Is. This is a three year campaign in which individual Catholic families will be asked to consider providing monetary assistance for the sake of Catholic schooling and religious education in general. While this may seem quite demanding, it must be kept in mind that many of the families that receive Catholic education are neither Catholic nor capable of paying for Catholic education. Thus, they have to ask for aid from the Office of Catholic Schools and other partners, like the Big Shoulders Fund. And whilst this itself might also seem unimportant, it has to be kept in mind that parents chose to send their children to Catholic schools because they are well aware of what the other possible institutions would be, which would be schools in which gangs and violence are prevalent.

And so, let us pray that this campaign is successful, more than anything, for the sake of students who would not even be focused in school were it not for their Catholic schooling.


Monday, August 5, 2013


I spent practically all of last week working on making a video for a conference that is coming up on August 7. My job was to dig around different areas to find pictures that showed the diversity of our schools, as well as proto-types of what Catholic education might look like from the outside looking in. While this may seem like a pretty simple and quick task (which was what I believed when I first began the project), it was extremely time consuming because of editing and ensuring that the music went in sync with the pictures and the commencing words.
When putting together the pictures, I looked for pictures that demonstrated the striving for peace, justice, and academic achievement which are central to Catholic education. To be quite frank, such pictures are not that simple to find, since putting a picture to the abstract image of justice is quite complicated, and different people might find different means of perceiving what justice might look like objectively and concretely. Still, I attempted my best at doing such a task. In all honesty, academic achievement was perhaps the easiest picture to find and demonstrate, since finding pictures of students engaging actively in learning is quite simple.
What intrigued me the most, however, of the project were the lyrics of the songs used as the background track, Brand New Day (mentioned previously). The song was the most intriguing because it set forth for the children the reality of hope by placing before them the image of a new day, a new dawn, a new beginning. In Catholic theology, there are three cardinal virtues, among them being that of hope. That is exactly what the song offered: hope for a new day. That is exactly what Catholic education tries to do: give hope. How so? Well, for a long time, Catholic schooling of nuns (while biased in what related to God and the Church), was nonetheless, the only education that many poor children could receive. The history of this country can point to the fact that many children received education because nuns did what they could in managing classes with forty or fifty children and pouring themselves out for them. While it is true that as of late, with more and more public and private schools, Catholic education has been relegated, it still serves many children who would otherwise be stuck in public schools were teachers, to be quite frank, are not the best nor the most committed. And so, what I can say is that Catholic education, as again history shows, does a good job of serving the poorest of the poor and the weak by providing them with aide so that they may be able to attend a school where their children's needs might be met. And that is what I tried to demonstrate in that five minute video that took up my time last week.


Monday, July 29, 2013


Today (Monday, July 29), I began a new project. This one is more time consuming and requires more technical adroitness. I am to make a music video for the Leadership Conference on August 7 that provides a scope of the diversity of students that are enrolled in the Catholic school system. More than that, it's a video that will represent the ideals of Catholicism: hope, peace, and charity.

The song itself is written by a mother of a student in one of our schools. The scope of the song is to bring the hope of a new day - hence the name of the song, Brand New Day - to the students. Part of this hope, obviously, is created by peaceful and loving interactions among students, regardless of faith, creed, or color. It is my job, then, to find pictures which highlight the diversity within our schools, as well as the artistic expression of those ideals by children. By this I mean that part of the pictures which I will be putting in are drawings of what students imagine peace and justice and hope to be.

And so, it may not seem like much, but it is extremely time consuming synchronizing pictures and music, and all of the rest.


On August 7th, the Office of Catholic Schools is holding a Leadership Conference to kick-off the year and introduce new members in the office (since about five people either moved on to something else in their careers or retired). Since these changes have taken place, and the secretary got promoted to a higher position within the system, they have asked me to fill in, temporarily. I am not the secretary, but rather, all of her functions have gone to me, since I was the worker best trained and with the most "seniority" out of all the interns.

Hence, I spent a large portion of my last week occupied handling many duties, but specifically, the duty of preparing information for the conference and making it readily available within the office as well as to those who are attending. I have been receiving emails, calls, and faxes with their information so that I might sign them up for the conference. Along with this duty of receiving their information - which by the way is all put into an excel sheet - I am responsible for paying for them. This I either do because they send in checks, or because in their application they provide their credit card information. With their credit card information, all I do then is go to Give Central and pay online for them.

Though it is true that their is not much history involved in preparing for this conference, there sometimes is a little bit of research that must be done with sponsors and attendees. This is not for security reasons or any matter of that sort, but rather so that when I include them in the brochure that is passed out to all attendants, they may get a hopefully better understanding and knowledge of the companies and people that work with the Office of Catholic Schools. Hence, I at times will have to look up information such as when they were founded, what their primary purpose was, how it has evolved, and where they currently are. For example, one the biggest partners with the Office of Catholic Schools is the Rowland Reading Foundation. This foundation was simply at first a reading project began by Ms. Rowland in attempt to improve her students reading ability. The project was called SuperKids Reading; it was 40 years ago! It only became a foundation in 2004. Either way, what Ms. Rowland created has now integrated methods based from research that prove to be the most effective. Presumably, because of how long ago Ms. Rowland began, some advancements can be accredited to her work.

That is what I did for a couple of days last week.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Today I finished with gathering the enrollment numbers for this July, and comparing them with those of last July’s. As I had seen, even before embarking on this project, enrollment figures have been decreasing. While it is true that many schools are experiencing substantial growth in their enrollment figures (as compared with last July’s), it would be more candid to say that most schools are suffering from an ever increasing secular country that seeks to obviate any roles formerly corresponding to faith and religious institutions. Thus, it should not come as a shock to anyone with a perspicacious brain working within the Catholic school system that numbers are decreasing, and that schools’ enrollment figures fluctuate so much. That is to say, because society and the country no longer adhere to the ethical demands of religious faith upon which the country was founded, but rather each family/individual seeks only what is best for themselves, a parent might enroll a student, one year, in a Catholic school for educational purposes (since Catholic schools are known for their great achievements vis-à-vis public schools), and the next year pull out their child to protect them against being indoctrinated. From many of the letters that we receive, hence, employees of the Office of Catholic Schools are aware that many parents send their children to Catholic schools, not for religious purposes, but because of the many accolades which our schools have received and lauds it has garnered.

Now, at the same time, to be fair to society, one can be perhaps more understanding and acquiesce to parent’s decision of withdrawing their children from Catholic schools. Reason, you might ask? The sex abuse scandals which so rocked and enervated the Church and placed it under the most deleterious of lights. Since the first cases of sex abuse scandals, many school’s enrollment have plummeted, many to the extent of being closed. While schools seem to recuperate some of their loses when tragedy strikes (as people run back to God), they soon find themselves in a worst position than before, as more and more people become listless to religion.

And so, when I do my comparing and contrasting, much of the history of the past decades crosses my mind, from the glorious fifties, to the revolutionary seventies, to the tranquil eighties, to the disastrous problems commencing in the mid- to late nineties up to now.
Ah! But I must mention. There is still some hope. In the 19th century, the Catholic Church grew because of immigrants from Europe, mainly Italian and Irish families. Today, the hope of Catholic schools lies in fostering education for Latinos, who are quickly becoming the majority in many of the urban schools. Overall, whites still provide the greatest number of students for Catholic education, though Latinos are, in comparison to even a few years ago, not lagging too far behind.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Monthly Enrollment Comparison

I began a new project on Thursday. I have to compile the enrollment data sent by the schools, contrasting the numbers from each month with numbers of the previous school year (e.g. April ’12 vs. April ’13, May ’12 vs. May ’13, etc.). The main objective is to give schools a more visual picture of what enrollment looks like in their school. This is because the data gathered is then put into a graph, which demonstrates to each school exactly what grade levels need more improvement in terms of enrollment. For example, a school might have sixty students in seventh grade, but only thirty in the third grade, and fifty in first grade. One would hope that with this information, each school’s marketing department or staff members that deal with enrollment, would ask why it is that such a drop occurs. Is it perhaps that a specific teacher in a certain grade level is not liked? Or is there possibly bad education in the lower levels that would lead parents to remove their children from the school? Or might it also be perhaps that financial problems have surfaced, causing parents to be unable to pay tuition, even with archdiocesan loans? Though these questions might appear rather simplistic, they are certainly the first questions that must be asked when looking for solutions to enrollment problems.
A record of past enrollment failings would hint at the fact that marketing was not heavily emphasized when compared the historical enrollment record of the school. Sure each school still spent money on marketing, but it appears that many times, they were asking the wrong questions and employing the wrong techniques. Here, thus, is were being a lover of history comes in to help, since at its core, history (at least any history that is worth paying attention to), always begins with proper understanding of what questions must be asked in order to get the most satisfying answers. A historian, for example, does not simply look at figures and states “enrollment went up/down.” Rather, he first asks why enrollment went down. What factors (social, financial, etc.) impacted the numbers? Are numbers going down across the board, or only in a specific region? What were the social situations in that specific time period that might better let us understand why figures came out the way they did? These, then, are the questions, which I, as a novice historian, try to pose to the different marketing directors that I speak with to help them analyze the situation.
Hence, a project which will take a couple of days. As a heads-up, I have not forgotten that I promised to give a brief history of Catholic schooling in Chicago. I shall, it’s just been a busy time in the archdiocese, but the history will come, so that you might the great and beneficial impact of Catholicism in education.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

School's Enrollments

            Today part of my duty was calling schools so that they might turn in enrollment figures for the month of July. Starting last year, but with much more tonic persistence this year than previously, the Office of Catholic Schools, marketing department, is asking that schools send enrollment figures, as they stand, for each month. The purpose is two-fold: it allows the school marketing and recruiting departments to see how much work must be done, and secondly, it gives our office an idea of our job towards helping school enrollment go up. Since we have the records of enrollment figures from the past, we compare the values and determine what might be some possible reasons for student fall-out, or, positively, student gain.
            One interesting element when looking at enrollment figures is looking at demographic information. As a history major, when looking at figures, one must always ask, what do the figures represent, what happened and why did it happen? For example, by looking at enrollment figures, I can get an idea in my head of the sort of age group and people who live in a certain area. Thus, when we look at an area where enrollment figures have gone down, location plays a vital role, as many areas that were once family-centered areas have now been infiltrated (in the kindest possible way), by middle-class, middle-aged, single people. Hence, when compared to figures in the past, one can make a pretty good postulation as to when families started migrating and the effect that it had on the schools. Surely enough, numbers match the hypothesis, and reasons that were presented from the onset are proved by the data.