Monday was the first full day at institutions across Milwaukee's brand new network of Catholic elementary schools.
The Seton Catholic Schools Network is combining nine elementary schools within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. This coming school year, they'll work collaboratively to help improve efficiency.
"In the past, each parish operated on its own - on an island," said Michael Turner, Principal of St. Catherine's Elementary School. "There wasn't much opportunity for leaders or teachers to collaborate and train together."
Turner said schools within the network can buy textbooks and other supplies in bulk, which helps secure better prices than they would get if they were each purchasing supplies individually.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki said the Seton Network's chief financial, academic and operating officers now oversee the hiring of administrators and other major decisions at the schools, which previously fell to each individual parish's priest.
The Archbishop also said the network's officers can more evenly distribute funding, and direct money to the schools where it's needed most.
Listecki added Seton's setup makes recruiting teachers easier. Teachers employed at one of the network's schools would be able to easily apply for transfers or promotions within the network.
According to the Archbishop, Catholic schools across the county are struggling with declining enrollment.
But in Milwaukee, enrollment is up five of the last six years.
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Listecki said he believes that's because of the quality of Milwaukee's Catholic Schools, as well as an increasing desire among some parents to make sure their children receive some faith-based education.
"Imagine how many problems - especially in terms of our city - would be solved if we were developing individuals not only responsible to the law but responsible before God for their actions," Listecki said. "Think about the things that have happened in our city, and how they'd be different if individuals had been thinking 'Hey, I'm accountable before God.'''
The Seton network officially launched in July. It's expected to expand over the next few years, to eventually include 26 or 27 elementary schools total.