The Archdiocese of Omaha has tapped Monsignor James Gilg, its superintendent of schools, as the first executive director of a new regional school consortium that will begin operation in southeast Omaha next year.
The archdiocese announced Archbishop George J. Lucas’ appointment of Gilg, effective immediately, on Wednesday. Gilg will continue as superintendent, a post he has held since 2006, for the rest of the school year. Gilg is in his 46th year of Catholic education, including serving as founding president of Skutt Catholic High School.
“I’m confident that his expertise and dedication will ensure that the new consortium will strengthen the work of Catholic education in South Omaha,” Lucas said in a statement.
Formation of the Omaha Catholic Schools Consortium is part of a broader strategic plan — called Promise 2020 — that Lucas laid out in June with the intent of strengthening Catholic schools and parishes in east Omaha.
The consortium, similar to a mini-school district, will unite five sites under a single administration with common tuition, teacher salaries, marketing and fundraising. The five school sites will be Sts. Peter and Paul, Holy Cross, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Thomas More and St. Bernadette in Bellevue.
Deacon Tim McNeil, the archdiocese’s chancellor, said the choice of Gilg made sense given his good working relationship with administrators and teachers and familiarity with the archdiocese.
“There’s not a learning curve,” he said.
Gilg already has begun planning for the consortium, meeting with pastors and administrators, setting up a legal structure and forming committees that will focus on the details of its operation.
“High on the list will be retention and recruitment of students,” McNeil said, “and he’s putting together a plan for that.”
The archdiocese’s plan also calls for more outreach to the area’s growing Hispanic population, which is heavily Catholic. An estimated 42,000 Hispanics live east of 72nd Street, a number that’s up 60 percent — or more than 15,000 people — in the past decade.
The archdiocese formally kicked off that effort Tuesday with a Latino Initiative Luncheon sponsored by the archdiocese and the Latino Catholic Scholarship Fund of Omaha, which was launched in 2002.
The luncheon included a talk by the Rev. Joe Corpora, who heads a national campaign at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., aimed at doubling the percentage of Latinos who send their children to Catholic schools. Corpora also met with various groups of educators, pastors and community leaders, and he shared strategies that have helped increase enrollment in Chicago.
Corpora said those strategies boil down to tapping and building relationships. A Latino mom, he said, is more likely to consider whom she knows at a school than to look at test scores on a website. That may mean hiring a recruiter for a school rather than spending on advertising.
Corpora said he believes such efforts can succeed. “But it’s not going to work without a lot of work and energy.”
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