By Denise Dick
Six elementary schools and three early-childhood learning centers united as one system to provide a Catholic education for Mahoning Valley students.
The schools formed as Lumen Christi, meaning Light of Christ, last July. The new system includes Holy Family in Poland, St. Charles in Boardman, St. Christine in Youngstown, St. Nicholas in Struthers, St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Austintown, St. Patrick in Hubbard and the early-childhood learning centers at Holy Family, St. Christine and St. Luke, Boardman, parishes.
Each school has its own principal, but one president, Lois J. Cavucci, oversees all of the schools.
“Our Bishop [the Rev. George V. Murry] is a believer in the president/principal model,” Cavucci said.
Kitty Brown, the system’s marketing director, said it’s a model that’s been effective in other parts of the country in retaining students and growing enrollment.
The system includes about 1,235 students. The elementary schools include kindergarten through eighth grade and the early-childhood learning center houses 3- through-5-year-olds.
“United as one: in faith, service and the formation of Christian leaders,” reads the vision statement. “Stronger as one: in cutting-edge instruction, academics, and technology-rich learning.”
The system also is governed by a 14-member board of directors with representation from each of the parishes and committees assigned to various functions from marketing to enrollment to finances.
“The goal is to ensure that Catholic education is valued and viable in the Mahoning Valley,” Brown said.
James M. Rosa, a certified public accountant, is the chairman of the Lumen Christi board of directors.
“Any change has its challenges,” he said. “People get used to doing things a certain way.”
All of the schools functioning as one system allows them to save money through economies of scale. Rather than each school paying a separate trash fee, for example, they pay only one.
“Over three years, we’re saving over $44,000 on trash pickup,” Rosa said.
The board is looking at ways to save in janitorial services and paper products as well.
“Economies of scale gives us bargaining power,” the board chairman said.
There are educational benefits, too.
Teachers and principals come together for professional development. That allows them to share what’s working in their schools and classrooms with their colleagues at the other schools, Cavucci said.
“The teachers — they love it,” she said. “They’re sharing lesson plans, and the principals are thrilled to death.”
Although the schools didn’t join under one system until last July, planning began in February 2012.
The system now has a strategic plan — something none of the individual schools ever had before.
Rosa said that enables those involves to be focused on a common goal.
That’s particularly important as the Mahoning Valley faces a shrinking population and a challenging economy, he said.
The system employs some business functions.
“At the same time it’s a business, it’s a mission,” Rosa said.