Dr. Mary McDonald, the former superintendent of the Diocese of Memphis and founder of the iconic Jubilee School Network, joined me on the Catholic School Matters podcast (Episode #52). When McDonald and her team worked to re-open shuttered inner-city Catholic schools, she took a deliberate, patient approach. They re-opened one school a year, one grade at a time. That way, they could build the school culture one cohort at a time. Their attention to school culture is also present in their parent contract which spells out expectations for parents and for schools. This agreement is far beyond a financial agreement—it spells out the demands on parents (allowing time for homework, getting students to school in time, etc).
McDonald also found a way to discuss the success of the Jubilee Schools:
- On the individual level, they pay attention to student achievement and growth. They are able to measure the individual successes and are deliberate about publicizing these successes.
- On the local level the revitalized Catholic schools have given inner-city Memphis hope and have also been a source of civic pride. They have also spurred innovation in the public and private sector.
- On the national level, the Jubilee Schools have inspired other dioceses to embark on efforts to save or revitalize their inner-city schools.