Dr. Rigg: Three Things I Learned
This story originally appeared in The Catholic Beat in January, before the switch to our current format. Dr. Rigg has since visited the remaining schools in the district. The new plan, or “vision,” for the school system will be announced this month. “I remain tremendously optimistic about the content of this vision,” Dr. Rigg wrote in the most recent newsletter for Lighting the Way, the project’s official name. “I know that our vision will provide for vibrant Catholic schools for years to come.”
It’s taken a year and a half, but Dr. Jim Rigg, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, has almost made the goal he set for his first year: to make walk-though visits to every school in the system.
“Our Archdiocese is vast,” he says with a laugh. “I kind of set an unreachable goal for my first year.”
That’s the first thing Dr. Rigg says he learned — the nation’s eighth largest Catholic school system is bigger than you think. Some of the schools are two and a half hours away from the Archdioceses main offices, and visiting them all in a year is a tall order for someone also charged with coming up with a new vision and new direction to keep the districtgoing in the 21st century.
After visiting 109 of the 118 schools, a second thing Dr. Rigg learned is that Cincinnati’s schools are diverse in more ways than one. The school system encompasses rural, urban, and suburban schools, and schools founded by many different religious orders. Forty percent of students in the Archdiocese belong to ethnic minorities.
“Each school has its own flavor of Catholicism, its own personality,” he says. “There’s a school to serve every type of family and every type of student.”
That diversity is unusual, he says, even in many large Catholic school systems. In part, it’s caused by the third thing he’s learned visiting more than 100 schools and meeting with hundreds of parents: “The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has a tremendously strong sense of Catholicity. People stay here and send their children to the same schools they attended, and that their parents attended. People are tremendously proud of their schools.”
Rigg says these three things are building blocks for the plan his office is putting together with consultants and representative “stakeholders” from the schools, a plan designed to preserve and expand on what’s best in area schools. “We intend to build on the pride people have in their schools, to keep what is unique about each school but build on the qualities we all have in common: the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church.”
The results, he says, will be announced late this summer. Six task forces are still going over the data they’ve collected — data he says is “extremely encouraging.” The comprehensive plan will include recommendations on financing and tuition aid, marketing, expanding into different populations, and developing “a conscious effort to be sure the Gospel values are reflected in our classrooms.”
Rigg says he knows many families feel “understandable anxiety” about changes to the schools tha are so important to them. He encourages families to check the Lighting the Way website and sign up for the electronic newsletter for announcements about developments he thinks they will find as exciting as he does. “We’re taking the district in a very healthy direction,” he says, “one that will give more access to current families, new access to new families, and a strategic roadmap that will take us into the future.”
Photo courtesy the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The results of the two-year Lighting the Way project will be shared with all area principals in middle of this month. “A public rollout of the vision will follow,” Dr. Rigg wrote in the Lighting the Way newsletter. “This rollout will include a series of face-to-face presentations throughout the Archdiocese.” Although he could not comment on the content of the plan, Dr. Rigg said “at its core, the vision includes a call for high-quality authentically Catholic schools that are available and affordable for all who wish to attend.”