Analyze Current Situation:
An honest assessment of the school’s current enrollment situation is needed in order to develop an effective plan to improve. Before bringing discussion to the broader committee, the Enrollment Lead and Principal should discuss the current situation and determine data to share with the committee. Data to consider includes:
- Available feedback from current families, prospective families, and parishioners
- Status of the relationship with the parish and other parishes without schools
- Innovative or unique school program offerings (e.g., academic, co-curricular, or service)
- Areas of strength and opportunities for growth
It is important to keep this part of the discussion based strictly on the current situation, despite any temptation to promote the vision for the future of the school. After the Principal and Enrollment Lead have discussed their assessment of strengths and weaknesses, they should open the floor to input from the Enrollment Committee and document any insights into the appropriate location of a SWOT Analysis Worksheet (see download for blank copies), as demonstrated in the following example.
Do not distribute the sample SWOT Analysis above as it may risk dilution of committee discussion. Depending on the personality of a given enrollment committee, this exercise can be lively from the beginning or need some time to cultivate. If a group is slow to get going, or if the Enrollment Lead prefer, share copies of the blank SWOT Analysis Worksheet found in the Appendix. Give committee members time to consider the different qualities, opportunities, and strengths before re-engaging in conversation.
Make sure that the feedback is documented by the designated note taker. It is also important that any insights captured are developed beyond simple statements. For instance, if a member of the committee says that the teaching staff is excellent, ask them to give a specific example for saying that. Perhaps they have a very compelling story behind their reason to believe in the quality of the teaching at the school. Look to dig deeper into the statements of the Enrollment Committee, oftentimes there will be valuable insights to uncover with the power to inspire current parents and attract prospective parents.
The Enrollment Lead needs to ensure that each of the following areas are covered in this discussion by the committee:
- Strengths: What does the school do well that matters to the stakeholders of the school (e.g., students, parents, parishioners and the community)?
- Weaknesses: What are the areas with which the school either struggles or fails to deliver?
- Opportunities: Are there emerging trends or situations that could prove beneficial to either improve a weakness or further develop a strength?
- Threats: Are there emerging challenges that the school should be aware of in order to better position itself for the future?
Additional Questions that can help facilitate a more robust conversation during the situation analysis of the school’s strengths, weaknesses opportunities, and threats:
- What do parents and students most want from any school?
- What do parents and students most want from a Catholic school?
- What features does this Catholic school have to meet these needs?
- What are the specific reasons, rational and emotional, that a family chooses to attend this school? What do the school’s best advocates say about the school?
- What are the specific reasons, rational and emotional, that a family chooses NOT to attend? What do the school’s worst critics say about the school?
- Who are the school’s biggest competitors (list public, private and other Catholic schools?
- Why are families attracted to or dissuaded from sending children to competitor schools?