Platform for Excellence

Strategic Plan

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In 2017, with wind in their sails from the success of the Soaring Campaign for the renovation of Wahlert Catholic High School, a group of loyal Holy Family benefactors, consisting of parents, grandparents, business leaders and alumni, formed a taskforce to consider how the winds of momentum could carry Holy Family further.

Fueled with ideals for excellence in programming and infrastructure, the group began to establish what would become Holy Family’s Platform for Excellence. They firmly believed there was more that could be accomplished through the generosity of the Holy Family community, and as discussions of a second campaign began, Holy Family leaders set forth to draw up the strategic plan that would bring the aspirations for Holy Family’s future into focus.

At the December 2019 meeting, the Holy Family board of education approved Platform for Excellence and our five-year strategic plan that will impact every facet of the organization.

Our Vision

Portrait of a Graduate

The guiding light for our strategic planning process was our Portrait of a Graduate – a vision of excellence for every Holy Family student.  Throughout the course of the 2018-2019 school year, Holy Family faculty and staff, along with board and committee support, community input, and the guidance of a professional consultant, drafted a strategic plan to guide our work through the next five years.

Holy Family students are:

Spiritual & Ethical

They understand the personal and communal nature of the Catholic faith, living the learned faith in all that they do and in service to others.

Aware & Connected

They are well-rounded, balanced and involved – in arts, athletics, and other co-curricular activities. They are self-aware leaders in local and global communities.

Passionate & Engaged

They love learning. They are actively engaged and entrepreneurial in their approach to school, work, activities, service and their lives.

Capable & Prepared

They are prepared to succeed in every facet of life after high school.  They have developed the key Habits of Success and critical skills and knowledge needed to actualize their own dreams and thrive in the 21st century.

A Strategic Approach to Achieving Our Vision

Five strategic priorities will structure the work that needs to be done to achieve our vision of excellence and ensure a vibrant future for Holy Family Catholic Schools for generations to come.


Our Strategic Initiatives:

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Holy Family Catholic Schools, by God’s grace and in partnership with families and parishes, empowers students to generously live an integrated life-long, and joy-filled faith through comprehensive Catholic Formation and meaningful sacramental experiences.

Goals (measured according to the year-end student satisfaction survey):

  • 75% of HFCS students (4-12) will indicate they are satisfied or very satisfied with "support for social and emotional needs."
  • 75% of HFCS students (4-12) will indicate they "respect one another" by the end of the 24-25 school year.
  • 80% of students (4-12) will agree that they "fit in at school."
  • 100% of students (4-12) will indicate they "agree/strongly agree" that "My school has helped me build a relationship with Christ" by 2025.
  • 100% of students (4-12) will indicate they "agree/strongly agree" that "My school encourages parish involvement" by 2025.

Phase I Initiatives (2020-2025):

  • Develop a personalized religion curriculum that provides a comprehensive foundation in the Catholic faith and inspires students to religious vocations
  • Introduce program designed to build knowledge of Catholic faith among all teachers
  • Increase parent and student participation in local parishes
  • Re-establish a School Improvement Advisory Committee to provide ongoing input for system improvement

Phase II Initiatives:

  • Enhance impactful faith-building activities at each level
  • Create traditions in each building surrounding the Catholic faith
  • Develop a plan to cultivate and engage local and non-local alumni

Phase III Initiatives:

  • Sequence local, national and global service offerings, including student-driven youth-leadership opportunities K-12
  • Expand retreat opportunities for students in grades 5-9
  • Assess each building for visible signs of Catholic identity

Holy Family will increase enrollment across the system through the execution of an intentional student recruitment and retention strategy grounded in the clear articulation of Holy Family’s value and an effective financial aid process.


  • HFCS’s enrollment will grow by 2% K-12 by October 1, 2025, and growth will be reflective of Dubuque’s diversity.

Phase I Initiatives (2020-2025):

  • Collect and communicate key academic achievement metrics that contribute to the value proposition and drive student recruitment and retention
  • Communicate the value proposition of personalized learning
  • Develop a strategic and targeted communication plan that conveys the value proposition for internal and external audiences
  • Update and implement detailed student retention plan starting with Pre-K

Phase II Initiatives:

  • Partner with community organizations to connect with newcomers and broaden our audience for recruitment
  • Develop a strategy to increase the diversity of the student body
  • Create a structured process to collect feedback from families throughout the year
  • Develop student experiences that build community among families and transcend individual schools

Phase III Initiatives:

  • Increase international enrollment to at least 10 students per year
  • Implement automatic pre-registration

Holy Family will provide an academic experience that is demonstrably better than alternative options. Through personalized learning, we will empower students to take ownership of their learning, ensuring engagement, growth, and preparedness for college, career and life.

Holy Family will offer a system-wide articulated arts program, aimed at developing each student’s creative talents, will establish Holy Family Catholic Schools as Dubuque’s first choice for families who are passionate about the arts.

Holy Family will foster personal development through an exceptional athletic program that reinforces hard work, fair play, continuous improvement and teamwork.

Goals (measured according to the year-end student satisfaction survey):

  • Establish an expectation that all students are at least "proficient" with a targeted goal of raising "advanced" ISASP scores to 35% in each core subject area.
  • The student ACT composite will be 26 by the year 2025.
  • 100% of the Class of 2026 will have completed the Prepared Portfolio.

Phase I Initiatives (2020-2025):


  • Define services and support for students with special needs and implement consistently across the system
  • Develop competencies for 9-12 and electives
  • Hire a K-12 language coordinator to oversee the year-to-year progress for all immersion students
  • Install Spanish signage as often as possible in immersion buildings and classrooms
  • Build-out Personalized Learning Faith in Action opportunities
  • Create a college and career readiness platform - ACT prep, internships, enhanced college/career planning
  • Conduct an early childhood program gap analysis and develop a plan for alignment with K-12 programming


  • Assess the outdoor athletic complex and develop a plan to address needs
  • Create a secondary coaching development system
  • Ensure adequate coaching levels for each sport
  • Build-out a 4-12 strings program
  • Create an annual stipend to support instrumental programming
  • Create arts endowment to support costs for show choir, drama, instrumentals, and choir

Phase II Initiatives:

  • Define necessary consistencies in programming across all schools
  • Increase the number of mutually-beneficial business partnerships to enhance experiential learning while providing organizational value
  • Investigate elementary program opportunities
  • Determine a system-wide behavioral approach to address student development and discipline
  • Build fund for equipment, uniforms and skill development
  • Hire a Director of Arts to oversee system-wide arts programming
  • Build a marching band to showcase the arts
  • Conduct a gap analysis of secondary co-curricular offerings
  • Assess elementary after-school offerings and make adjustments as needed
  • Purchase new instruments for band each year as needed
  • Build out robotics programming

Phase III Initiatives:

  • Research and implement K-3 Personalized Learning curriculum
  • Furnish classrooms to support personalized learning
  • Begin offering Mandarin in the early years
  • Introduce immersion programming in a childcare setting
  • Hire youth sports coordinator
  • Install artificial surface on the soccer/football field
  • Resurfacing Wahlert track
  • Build a performing arts auditorium

With a long-term master plan for facility improvements and ongoing maintenance, Holy Family will create 21st-century educational centers where students can focus on intellectual, spiritual, and physical growth in comfortable and inspiring settings. Our facilities will help attract students while maximizing efficiencies.


Through optimized revenue models and efficient cost management, Holy Family will support the long-term sustainability of our schools, and in alignment with the Holy Family Catholic Schools mission, we will ensure accessibility for all who desire a Catholic education.


Phase I Initiatives (2020-2025):

  • Support ongoing transportation needs
  • Replace Holy Ghost roof
  • Provide support to Resurrection building project to ensure it meets the needs of the parish and school
  • St. Columbkille renovation
  • St. Anthony renovation
  • Nativity renovation
  • Determine parish assessment formula
  • Expand early childhood programming to drive revenue
  • Increase endowed scholarships for students at all levels
  • Increase the number of businesses participating as business sponsors to support the annual fund
  • Develop a strategic and targeted fundraising plan to engage new and existing donors


Phase II Initiatives:

  • St. Joseph the Worker renovation
  • Repurpose Holy Ghost second floor for early childhood
  • Develop an updated tuition model
  • Create strategy to reduce reliance on parish assessments
  • Increase endowed scholarships for students at all levels


Phase III Initiatives:

  • Establish an endowment for facilities maintenance
  • Increase endowed scholarships for students at all levels

Holy Family will invest in our workforce so that mission-driven educators no longer have to sacrifice financially to answer their calling. We will operate a high-functioning organization to attract, develop, and retain top-tier faculty and staff.

Phase I Initiatives (2020-2025):

  • Develop a detailed goal setting and accountability process at all levels
  • Develop a system-wide professional development plan for both certified and non-certified staff and an approach to measuring its effectiveness
  • Create a fund to support professional development to ensure personalized learning is implemented and sustained with fidelity
  • Revise key leadership roles and responsibilities
  • Complete analysis of staffing at each school site to establish consistency system-wide
  • Assess central office personnel needs and organizational structure
  • Restructure benefit strategy

Phase II Initiatives:

  • Develop an active employee-recruitment strategy, targeting high-potential candidates
  • Evaluate additional employee perks such as reduced childcare rates, expansion of tuition remission program, student loan forgiveness and signing bonuses
  • Create an organization-wide focus on customer service
  • Create an action-oriented retention strategy for teachers including a mentorship program
  • Create a principal succession plan
  • Support faculty in earning additional credentials to align with shortage areas

Phase III Initiatives:

  • Refine process for teacher candidate assessment
  • Match the surrounding market rate for employee compensation package

Progress Updates

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September 30, 2021

The 2021-2022 school year is well underway, and our students and teachers are already finding success with several new opportunities and enhancements to faith programming.

This message is the first in a series of updates we'll provide on the strategic initiatives that Holy Family is beginning to implement within our five platforms: Catholicity, Community & Culture; Recruitment & Retention; Academics & Activities; Facilities & Finance; and Talent.

Woven throughout, you’ll see evidence of the valuable input we’ve received from our community as part of our strategic planning process. Platform for Excellence is more than a document on the shelf. It is a living plan, and these celebrations belong to all of us. Routine surveys, parent focus groups and committee feedback inform our work and help us to measure progress. For example, our most recent parent satisfaction survey indicated that faith and moral teachings ranked among the top parent values at every site. This affirms the initiatives in this platform are well-aligned with the reasons families choose our schools.

Catholicity, Community & Culture Updates:

  • Our progress began with the Holy Family Religion and Mission committee and the creation of a review process entitled Our Shared Catholic Lens. This process will assist Holy Family educators and administrators to consistently and deliberately infuse the teachings of our faith into every aspect of programming system-wide.
  • In preparation for the school year, Wahlert Catholic partnered with local religious orders to present teachers with a hands-on poverty simulation training as part of an intentional focus on Catholic Social Teachings.
  • This year, Holy Family welcomed Fr. Martin Coolidge to join Fr. Andy Upah as co-chaplain, offering spiritual ministry to our students and staff at Central Campus.
  • Fr. Richard Ament also makes the sacrament of reconciliation available every week to all students and staff who wish to receive it.
  • Holy Family welcomed Fr. Jim Goerend as our new pastoral coordinator this year, replacing Fr. Steve Rosonke in serving as the Dubuque deanery liaison to the Holy Family Board of Education.
  • Among our Central Campus chaplains and the pastors of our parish-based schools, weekly Mass is now offered for all Holy Family K-12 students throughout the school year.
  • Fr. Coolidge and Fr. Upah provide an additional weekly Mass in the Central Campus chapel before school every Friday morning.
  • Eucharistic Adoration is offered in the chapel on Tuesdays while school is in session, thanks to the coordination efforts of parent-volunteer Amy Freund in partnership with the campus ministry team. This special opportunity is open to parents and other relatives who wish to pray for Holy Family students, staff, and the system as a whole.
  • K-12 students also enjoy the gift of Christ's presence during whole-class adoration opportunities.
  • This year, Wahlert Catholic has added two new religion courses: 1) Christ and Culture: Apologetics for a Modern World and 2) Introduction to the New Testament, a dual-credit course taught by Wahlert Catholic instructor Abigail Lofte in partnership with Clarke University. We're thrilled to provide these pinnacle theology courses, which will equip our students to fully embrace and defend their faith as Catholic adults.
  • Strategic restructuring of the religion department has enabled Ministry Director Katie Jones to dedicate her focus to the growth of the James R. Wahlert High School Ministry Program. Her work will infuse the student experience with the Catholic tradition by encouraging active participation in parish life, servant leadership, liturgical worship, Bible study, retreat opportunities and more.
  • Long-serving Wahlert religion teacher Sr. Kay Gaul has retired from teaching to accept a newly-created Campus Ministry Associate position to assist with the various ministry services offered throughout the year.
  • Similar restructuring within Mazzuchelli Catholic Middle School provides students with a dedicated religion department focussed exclusively on theology coursework, service and school ministry opportunities.
  • Every Mazzuchelli sixth-grader is now gifted a Bible for his or her personal use throughout middle and high school.
  • Service leadership throughout Holy Family schools is deliberately incorporated into Holy Family Faith in Action programming and mentor group projects. For example, Wahlert Catholic's new service model invites community members and organizations to submit requests for projects that could benefit from helping hands. In so doing, Wahlert student mentor groups are learning the value of taking an active role in the betterment of their community!

With these and many more incredible initiatives underway in Catholicity, Community & Culture, we know that the future is bright for our student disciples, and our faith-centered focus will only grow stronger.

We remain truly grateful for your ongoing support of our schools today and as we look to the future.
May God bless you abundantly!

Phil Bormann
Chief Administrator

October 25, 2021

Much like the faith formation initiatives we reported on last month, recruitment and retention are part of every aspect of our work at Holy Family as we continuously demonstrate what sets our schools apart. As a community, we all have a role in creating a welcoming environment. In short, every action and initiative undertaken as part of our strategic plan will have a layered impact on Holy Family’s success in the recruitment and retention of students and families.

In this update, we will offer a summary of strategic initiatives that are underway this year related to recruitment and retention efforts.

Recruitment & Retention Updates:

  • New scholarship funding and an improved application process will enhance access and provide a path for every family that desires a Catholic education for their child.
  • Intentional solicitation of feedback from current families to help identify areas of strength and opportunities for continued improvement.
  • Parent focus groups are helping to ensure the alignment of programming enhancements with student and parent aspirations and the objectives of the Holy Family mission.
  • A renewed focus on youth programming will enhance elementary after-school opportunities, summer camps, and more.
  • A Parent Ambassadors program will help build connections among current families and new-to-system families as well as other community networks to help foster a welcoming community and share the Holy Family experience first-hand.
  • A new enrollment management platform will help the system monitor inquiries, track interactions, strengthen connections and build relationships with prospective families.
  • Through a new comprehensive communications platform called ParentSquare, Holy Family will improve and streamline the flow of information, while connecting families with opportunities to be involved in their school community.
  • With a renewed focus on performance metrics, as well as individual, school, and system achievements, Holy Family will continue to highlight excellence in our schools.

This message is the second in a series of updates we'll provide on strategic initiatives that are underway within our five platforms: Catholicity, Community & Culture; Recruitment & Retention; Academics & Activities; Facilities & Finance; and Talent.

Woven throughout, you’ll see evidence of the valuable input we’ve received from our community as part of our strategic planning process. Platform for Excellence is a living plan, and these celebrations belong to all of us!

Thank you for your ongoing support of our schools today and as we look to the future.

May God bless you abundantly!

Phil Bormann
Chief Administrator

April 6, 2022

Academics & Activities Updates

We kicked off the 2021-2022 school year summarizing progress on our first two strategic platforms, Catholicity & Community and Recruitment & Retention. As the school year has progressed, our work has continued, and we are thrilled to round out the year sharing updates on our final three platforms.

In this update, we will summarize new and enhanced curricular and co-curricular programming initiatives that are underway.

System-Wide Updates:

Student Supports:

  • Recognizing the impact the pandemic has had on the brain health of both youth and adults in the past two years, Holy Family is taking strides toward improving programming, increasing professional support and implementing initiatives to support the health and wellbeing of students throughout the system. Most notably, a new Brain Health room will be opened on the Central Campus in the 22-23 school year, thanks to Brain Health Now.
  • Holy Family has re-established its commitment to social justice and inclusivity through our Catholic lens. An appointed leadership committee will steer this work as we create a more inclusive and socially/emotionally supportive school environment for all.
  • All Holy Family schools now have systemic strategies built into the structure of the day to identify and address student needs through intervention programs and teacher support.
  • Individualized mentoring is provided weekly in grades 4–12. Mentor groups also provide opportunities for relationship-building among students and group service projects.
  • New materials for reading and math were purchased to support initiatives that meet diverse learning needs.

English/Language Arts:

  • Holy Family's long-standing Writing Benchmark has been recalibrated to leverage the Summit Learning Cognitive Skills rubric, continuing to raise the bar and reinforce the importance of strong writing skills for every student.

Secondary-Specific Update:

College and Career Readiness:

  • A new College and Career Readiness Coordinator position was created at Wahlert Catholic this year to support and oversee college and career planning opportunities. 
  • Beginning in 2023, Wahlert will offer two-week exploratory-learning January “J-Term” courses, which may take the form of internships, job shadows, or service-learning opportunities. Each J-Term course includes a final project or capstone experience to demonstrate learning. Passing students will earn five high school credits, the equivalent of an academic semester-length course. 
  • A new high school portfolio project is being introduced this year for all incoming freshmen. Portfolios will combine Faith in Action with college and career readiness by documenting high school activities and achievements as evidence for college and scholarship eligibility. Each student's portfolio will culminate in a senior-year capstone project connecting career goals to a real-world service experience.
  • Partnerships with Clarke University, Loras College, University of Dubuque and Northeast Iowa Community College continue to grow, providing students new opportunities to concurrently earn high school and college credit through dual-enrollment courses.
    • A student could earn 24 college credits by simply leveraging the eight dual-enrollment opportunities offered at Wahlert next year, not including the countless PICC and PSEO college course options offered at free and reduced rates (more details can be found on the Wahlert Counseling webpage). 
  • The College and Career Readiness program continues to seek new community partnerships to join the current 80+ partners who support internship opportunities for every Wahlert senior.
  • College Application Week for seniors was launched last fall to help students complete college applications, meet with admissions reps and learn more about the college planning process. 
  • A new Decision Day will be celebrated in early May to recognize the many post-secondary opportunities that await our class of 2022.
  • Three college planning, financial aid and college course parent info sessions were offered by the guidance office this year.
  • ACT Prep is now offered to all Wahlert students at no added fee during school hours. Wahlert faculty use past test data to incorporate “ACT warm-ups” into class lessons. Two-day prep sessions are also offered by a certified ACT instructor prior to the district ACT and deeper prep on specific sub-categories is provided during Eagle Time.
  • Group college visits were offered through the Counseling office this year for students wishing to explore several regional colleges and universities.


  • Building upon Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum already offered at Mazzuchelli Catholic Middle School and Wahlert Catholic High School, the implementation of Computer Science programming is well underway with Computer Science Discovery and AP Computer Science courses now offered.
  • Robotics is now offered as an elective course (no longer exclusively extracurricular).


  • Robust music and performance art offerings now include AP Music Theory and Musical Theater courses.
  • Orchestra is a new elective offering for middle school students this year and will be offered at the high school level for 22-23, building on the grade 4-5 extracurricular strings program established in recent years.

Elementary-Specific Updates:


  • All Holy Family elementary schools have implemented a new K-3 science curriculum this year with enhanced professional development offered for teachers and heavy emphasis on hands-on experimentation, investigating, and research.
  • A team of faculty is working to strategically integrate Computer Science into the K-8 curriculum beginning next school year.

Youth Programming:

  • Through community feedback on surveys and focus groups, Holy Family has identified a desire for after-school enrichment programming. A Youth Program Coordinator position was created to help meet these needs.
  • Eagles Day Camp is a new weekly-themed summer care program offered by Holy Family Early Childhood at Central Campus beginning this summer. 

English/Language Arts:

  • A new phonics curriculum series was purchased for Kindergarten and grade one at Resurrection and St. Columbkille. Teachers received professional development in phonics instruction and ongoing implementation support. 

This message is the third in a series of updates on strategic initiatives that are underway within our five platforms: Catholicity, Community & Culture; Recruitment & Retention; Academics & Activities; Facilities & Finance; and Talent. Find previous updates and more information about our Strategic Plan here on our website.

We are proud of the progress our schools are making and deeply grateful to our community of staff, families and supporters whose dedication, guidance and financial support make it all possible.

May God bless you abundantly!

Phil Bormann

Chief Administrator

Oct. 6, 2023

I am pleased to announce that transformative changes are on the horizon for St. Columbkille Elementary. After months of dedicated planning and securing financial support, parish leaders are set to begin renovations at the end of this school year!

While there is much to look forward to, I am most excited for the opportunity to welcome more families to St. Columbkille and the Holy Family community, as the renovation will expand our school’s capacity to serve three sections in each grade level, K-5. Beyond that, the new layout will house all school activities – including lunch and early childhood programming – under one roof, elevating the day-to-day experience for our students.

Temporary Relocation for 2024-2025

As always, safety and efficiency guide our work, and we are making arrangements for a temporary transition of students during construction to St. Joseph the Worker (preschool through grade 1) and Resurrection (grades 2 through 5). Our St. Columbkille students will find a warm welcome during the 2024-2025 school year, and we are deeply grateful for the partnership and neighborly hospitality of these hosting parishes and schools. As a result, we’ll avoid day-to-day disruptions and provide an environment conducive to learning and growing in our faith. We know there will be many questions about the logistics of these transitions and we are confident we can address them as plans come together in the next few months. 

Stay Informed

We invite you to attend one of our upcoming community meetings to be held in the St. Columbkille gymnasium:

  • Sunday, Oct. 22, at 11:30 a.m.
  • Monday, Oct. 23, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 26, at 1:00 p.m. 

There, we’ll provide a preview of the building plans, welcome community questions and discuss campaign opportunities. Please join us!

As plans continue to develop and throughout the renovation, we'll keep families and staff updated through ParentSquare and our renovation updates page on the Holy Family website, where you’ll also find answers to frequently asked questions. Though we are still working through many of the details, you may always direct your inquiries to Principal Willman, Fr. Schatz, Fr. McDermott or me. You may also submit questions through the website.

Campaign Support

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous momentum already underway for St. Columbkille’s $14 million Our Future in Christ campaign. In its earliest phase, the parish has secured more than $6.2 million in pledges – a resounding endorsement from the St. Columbkille community for this defining moment in its school’s history! As a project partner, Holy Family has pledged $5 million, leaving $2.8 million to be raised. Those who wish to contribute to the project may contact the parish office at 563-583-9117.

We truly look forward to embarking on this transformational journey with you!

Yours in Christ,

Phil Bormann, Holy Family Chief Administrator
Meredith Willman, St. Columbkille Principal

Stay tuned for updates!