A higher percentage of St. Louis area Catholics choose Catholic
schools than in any other part of the United States. Many
non-Catholics also choose to send their children to Catholic
Why? What makes the Catholic schools here so attractive that
almost 60,000 students attend them and make ours the largest school
district in Missouri?
Catholic parish schools are focused on needs of their
Each parish elementary school is part of a Catholic parish that
serves a specific area with its own flavor, demographics and needs.
The school exists to serve that area and the people who live there.
(Catholic high schools, by contrast, are run by the archdiocese or
religious communities and serve students from parishes all over the
A strong academic program is built on a foundation of solid
Caring teachers work closely with parents and the entire parish
to meet individual student needs. High levels of parent and
community involvement create a strong support system that comes
from parents and parishes knowing that their parish school is
really their school.
Parish schools are locally run - not controlled by a central
There are 152 parish elementary schools, each operated by a
parish or group of parishes. Parish communities have their own
school boards, pick their own principals and are responsible for
their own educational program. Leaders at the school level - not a
central office administrator - decide what programs, curriculum and
staff will create the best learning experience for students. They
receive leadership and guidance as to what constitutes quality
No wonder parish schools are strong anchors for their
neighborhoods. The community importance of Catholic elementary
schools was shown in a recent study for the Today and Tomorrow
Educational Foundation, which found that the parish school was a
very important reason that about three out of four residents stayed
in city neighborhoods or moved to them in the last two years.
The parish as the foundation and sponsor of Catholic elementary
schools is a simple distinction - but a crucial one. Only by
understanding that parish operation and neighborhood focus are at
the heart of what makes parish schools work can sensible decisions
be made about significant Catholic school issues.
In recent months, an issue has been raised for our schools by
some teachers calling for a union to bargain with the Board of
Catholic Education. This request assumes the schools are operated
centrally and that is just not the reality.
Everyone who cares about the quality of our Catholic schools -
as well as fairness for almost 2,500 dedicated teachers - would
agree that we all need to work for better salaries and benefits for