By Jen Maney, GMCEC Institutional Coordinator – A few years back, a group of like-minded people in Milwaukee with a commitment to K-12 Catholic education got together and began to talk about the ways in which some of our local Catholic colleges and universities might better support these schools.
From those conversations, the GMCEC, or Greater Milwaukee Catholic Education Consortium, was born. As a result, Milwaukee is the first archdiocese in the United States to have all of its Catholic universities and colleges within its boundaries mount a collaborative effort to ensure the future of its Catholic schools.
I was brought in about a year later to coordinate some of the efforts that were beginning to take shape under commitment and guidance from Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch, Marian University, Marquette University, and Mount Mary College.
“It will never work,” a friend of mine said as I was discerning whether or not to take this brand new position, never occupied by anyone, anywhere. “’Groups like that always die when new leaders come on board,” said someone else. “You’re crazy if you want to report to five different institutions!” cried a family member.
In spite of my lack of experience in Catholic K-12 education, I decided to jump in and accept the challenge.
Two and a half years later I have had a chance to stand back and appreciate what we have accomplished thus far:
- The GMCEC has served over 500 teachers and administrators from 80 archdiocesan schools in barely three years.
- Three of its board members, including me, were invited to Washington D.C. through the Department of Education, to address a group of educators thinking of new and better ways to improve our schools.
- The GMCEC, in collaboration with the Archdiocesan Office for Schools and the St. Clare Center at Cardinal Stritch University, supports a year-long, cohort-model, faith formation training program for school teachers and leaders wishing to grow their faith and understanding their ministry to “teach as Jesus did.”
- In December, 2010, Marquette University hosted a roundtable discussion among 40 Catholic school leaders struggling with their school’s Catholic identity in the 21st century.
- In August, the GMCEC and Office for Schools provided ongoing training to over 245 teachers looking to improve their classroom practice as we establish a new school culture of welcoming students of all learning levels.
- The GMCEC has developed and conducted grant writing workshops to help schools seek both local and federal funding.
- The GMCEC collaborated with the national Department of Education to provide a two-day workshop on how Catholic schools can work more effectively and efficiently to obtain federal funds for special needs and low-income students.
- Alverno College developed and offered a Basic Spanish class for 12 Catholic school teachers working in our schools serving English language learners.
- Alverno also developed and conducted a 6-week mini-course for teachers on serving our Latino population more effectively and more justly.
- The GMCEC is involved in utilizing master’s degree students in counseling from Mount Mary College to go into Racine elementary schools and provide counseling services to its students.
- Marian University hosted 166 teachers at the “21st Century Approach to Teaching and Learning” conference in August to assist our Catholic school teachers meet the challenges of a growing electronic age.
- Marquette University’s service learning department connected 13 Catholic schools with undergraduate courses and their students with its mission to do work within the community.
- All five participating GMCEC institutions offer tuition discounts for its Catholic school teachers and leaders.
This is just some of the work we have done thus far. As we look to the future, the GMCEC is taking the lead in measuring the academic effectiveness of our schools, something that has never been done in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. In addition, we are coordinating an effort to help our urban schools who participate in the school choice initiative by conducting customized professional development for their populations.
The GMCEC will also be welcoming universities from across the country in October of 2012, including Boston College, Fordham University, University of Notre Dame, Loyola Marymount, and Catholic University, among others, as it hosts a national summit on school governance.
The question this collection of institutions has asked in the past is “how can our Catholic colleges and universities better serve our Catholic elementary and high schools?”
The thing is…here in Milwaukee? We already are.