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SALT Publications

SALT, Winter 2008
Educational Co-sponsorship a Model of Collaboration

by Mary Pat Haley, BVM

"There is a witness value in having two religious congregations share the oversight of a school like CCHS. The partnership sends good energy into the church, especially in the realm of male/female collaboration. Our relationship has been characterized by respect and cooperation…." -Board of Corporators, Carmel Catholic High School

One would think that national recognition of Carmel Catholic High School as the recipient this year of its fourth Blue Ribbon Schools Award from the U.S. Department of Education would offer ample evidence of a school where collaboration rules, or, as their mission statement says, "students, parents, faculty and alumni interact in a spirit of Gospel love and freedom."

Carmel, with an enrollment of just over 1400, is the only high school in Illinois and only one of three Catholic high schools in the country to receive this prestigious award.

The school is one of only five nationally to win the award four times. These schools are regarded as models of excellence.

According to Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education, the award "distinguishes and honors schools for helping students achieve at very high levels. It takes a lot of hard work by teachers and students to become a Blue Ribbon School."

An award of this nature can only be the result of collaboration on every level of operation. Fr. Robert Carroll, O. Carm., principal of CCHS, noted the wide help from the school community in preparing the proposal for the award. "What amazes me is to have that consistent level of success for 22 years."

Founded as two separate schools in the early '60s in Mundelein, Ill., Carmel High School for Boys and Carmel High School for Girls shared a single physical plant. The academic programs were taught separately, but the schools shared in a variety of activities. There were separate faculties and administration.

In 1988, the two religious congregations formed a single school which would be jointly sponsored, owned and operated by the Sisters of Charity, BVM and the Order of Carmelites.

The Board of Corporators is composed of three BVMs and three Carmelites, the President, and the Principal of the school. This is the group that provides oversight of the mission and whose presence keeps the BVM and Carmelite values alive.

As Lois Dolphin, BVM, former member of the Board of Corporators, put it, "I think we have partnered in our understandings of sponsorship—an essential concept in keeping the Catholic in Carmel Catholic High School."

Fr. Carroll identified "trust" as a hallmark of the relationship between the Board of Corporators and the Board of Directors, the lay policy making body of the school. "Our partnership is one of trust," he said. "There are no factions. We work together and are very appreciative of each other."

The BVM/Carmelite partnership is embodied in a varied ways in the day to day life at Carmel. Dr. Judith Mucheck, now beginning her second year as president, described how the new crest came to be.

The marketing committee of CCHS asked to design a corporate symbol which would image and support the newly minted strategic plan. A call went out to students, parents, faculty and alumni for participants in this project. To her surprise over 400 people responded and focus groups formed.

What struck her was the level of consensus on what should be included. "It was striking how adamant they were about reflecting the religious congregations in the design," she said. "The spirit of the religious congregations became a kind of transcendent partnership."

The description of the crest reads: "The Order of Carmelites and the Sisters of Charity of the BVM are at the very foundation of what this institution stands for. It is their teachings, beliefs and hard work that set the stage for what we have today. This is why the lower quadrant was reserved for them, visually anchoring the design."

About the author:
Mary Pat Haley, BVM (St. Thomas) is Professor Emerita of Communication at Loyola University, Chicago, and a former member of the Carmel Board of Corporators.

SALT is a quarterly magazine published for friends and family of the Sisters of Charity, BVM.