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Diocese of Wilmington board of Catholic schools survey draws high marks from parents and guardians of students

Louis De Angelo, secretary of education, and Father Joseph W. McQuaide IV, chancellor of the Diocese of Wilmington, talk before the premiere of “Unplanned” March 28, 2019 with Oblate Sisters of St. Francis, from left, Sister ​Lawrence Therese Hudson, Sister Anne Elizabeth Eder, Sister Joseph Margaret Kimura, Sister Joseph Anne Ricciardi and Sister John Elizabeth Callaghan. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

Parents and guardians of students in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington are generally satisfied with the education and other aspects of their children’s experience, according to a survey conducted last year by the diocesan Board of Catholic Schools.

Much like students receive a report card detailing their progress, the board gathered information to issue a report card on the status of the 19 parish and diocesan schools in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. According to the Catholic Schools Office, the data will be “helpful in reporting successes and charting growth for the future. It also allows the Diocese of Wilmington to compare its results to Catholic schools across the region.”

Superintendent Louis De Angelo said the importance of the Catholic faith came through in the survey.

“The one thing that I think is most important is that parents see the values of Catholic schools and that faith formation is one of the values that they see,” he said.

Louis De Angelo
Louis De Angelo

The survey was made available online during the 2020-21 school year. There were approximately 6,316 enrolled in parish and diocesan schools last year, and responses were received from 1,416 results. Some results were by individual parents or guardians, others by a family. De Angelo said the return rate of 22 percent was “respectable.”

This was the first time the diocese has surveyed all parents and guardians, although individual schools have done so in the past. He acknowledged some apprehension about the responses, but overall, the diocese was happy with what it heard.

“You always think you’re doing the best job you can do, but it’s always best to get the feedback,” De Angelo said.

The Catholic Schools Office highlighted four things in releasing results of the survey. The first was that parents and guardians believe their children benefit from attending a Catholic school. Seventy-five percent strongly agreed and 23 percent agreed with this statement. That is evident in the support from families — as volunteers, at events, through fundraisers — at the schools.

Second, specific metrics garnered a high percentage of positive responses. That came through in safety (88 percent either extremely satisfied or satisfied), character-building (84 percent), academics (83 percent), discipline (82 percent), and faith formation (81 percent). The Board of Catholic Schools said the longer a student remains in Catholic education, the more faith formation moves toward the top of that list.

Third, 89 percent of the respondents said the value of a Catholic education justified the expense of tuition. Lastly, academics and faith formation were the leading responses in the most important reasons for choosing Catholic education. The least important factors, according to the results, are legacy and location.

“Families choose Catholic school education intentionally because Catholic schools make a difference in the current and future life of each child,” the board said.

De Angelo said the ability for most schools to be in-person full-time last year helped the results of the survey. In general, parents and guardians were pleased with the way the Diocese of Wilmington handled the 2020-21 academic year. Schools that had 250 students or fewer were able to have all in-person classes. Bigger schools were hybrid.

What did not show up in the survey results were the “pages and pages” of comments. Most were positive, De Angelo said. The mandate for their children to wear masks generated some of the not-so-positive comments, but the superintendent notes that the mandate was imposed by the state, not the Catholic Schools Office.

“There were some good suggestions on things that maybe we could do differently,” he said.