Todd Sweda stresses that the primary reason Catholic schools exist is for young people to encounter Christ.
The superintendent for secondary education with the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education and Formation assumed his new duties in July. He previously was president of Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron, Ohio, and served in Catholic education for almost 30 years in Ohio and Maryland.
Education pairs with formation, Sweda said. “It’s about formation through their faith journey, from sacramental preparation and religious studies early on to retreats and campus ministry and service projects later on. All that formation leads to transformation.”
One major goal is for young people to come through Catholic schools having developed a moral compass and a “totally different lens” for their personal and professional lives, he said. “Whether they’re making decisions at home or in the boardroom at work, we want them to have the Catholic worldview.”
His role, Sweda said, is to serve the schools and to help “strengthen capacity for mission-fulfillment.” The archdiocese has nine archdiocesan Catholic high schools, two parish high schools and 16 sponsored Catholic high schools.
The schools are governed by a president-principal model. The effectiveness of that model is of utmost importance to the sustainability of the schools, Sweda said. He spends the majority of his time with presidents of high schools, and the new associate superintendent for secondary education, Cathy Fetter, focuses on assisting the principals.
The president is the face of the school to develop funding resources, work with advisory boards and community leaders, and initiate strategic planning for the future. The principal focuses on academic excellence, teacher evaluation and curriculum enhancement, among other tasks.
Fetter is visiting the schools to offer assistance. Those visits provide “a pulse on what’s happening in the schools and the opportunities that exist for improvement and growth,” said Sweda, who spends time with the presidents on matters such as advancement efforts, human resources and enrollment management.
School presidents and principals share responsibility in a key area: Catholic identity. “Our world today needs our young people who have been formed in the faith” Sweda said.
He is impressed that school presidents focus on the ways their roles promote their shared mission. “They know that their work is taking a look at where their school is going, making sure that it will be of service and an educational opportunity for the Church to have for decades to come,” he said.
Sweda praised school principals for looking at educational needs in a contemporary fashion and for being open to adapting to meet those needs. “There’s a real energy and synergy, and a lot of those things are dovetailing with what is happening” in the Catholic elementary schools, he said.
The ingredients exist for the schools to continue to thrive and meet new challenges, he said, especially when schools do good strategic planning. “It’s exciting to be part of an enterprise here that faces challenges with holy humor and humility on behalf of the young people entrusted to us. It’s a critical, critical arm of the Church’s ministry for formation.”
It may not be evident at first, he said, “but we’re planting seeds, for sure.”