Interview With Mr. Henry Fiore Jr.
Incoming Diocesan Superintendent Of Schools.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Henry Fiore Jr., Superintendent of Diocesan Schools, to discuss his perspective on his new responsibilities as Superintendent. Following is the full text of my questions and his responses. I would like to take this opportunity, as I did on the occasion of the interview, to welcome him to the Diocese and wish him every success in the vital leadership role he now assumes. - Michael Strammiello, FCC Editor
(Q) How has your professional journey lead you to this opportunity within the diocesan school system? And prepared you?
(A) God had placed me in the ministry of Catholic education as a principal of three successful Catholic schools in the Diocese of Providence. I have been a Catholic school principal for 21 years and have also worked extensively with the Diocese of Providence Catholic School Office in many capacities. My experiences as a principal and working for the diocese have prepared me well to help the diocesan schools in the Diocese of Norwich.
(Q) What will your top priorities be during your first 100 days – and first school year?
(A) A good administrator does not rush in and change things unless the situation is dire. In this case, Dr. Shine has been an admirable, intelligent, and well respected superintendent who made the transition extremely easy. My priority for the first 100 days is to help fill all opening positions for principals and teachers, meet with all of the pastors and principals, and familiarize myself with the culture and climate of all schools. I will also be meeting with the superintendents for Catholic schools for New England and at the national level to network and make connections in order to help our diocese even more. For the first year, my plan is to follow Our Holy Father, Pope Francis’ directive to “go out and get our feet dirty”. I would like to visit the schools to meet the teachers, students, and families. I come to serve and offer my assistance.
(Q) What do you see as the longer term challenges for the diocesan school system?
(A) The longer term challenges for this diocesan school system are no different than in other diocesan systems: enrollment and financing our schools. With the economy and birthrates down, these are difficult times for our schools. Church attendance is not what it was years ago. It is our mission to educate and evangelize despite these challenges, which is why we are currently seeking ways to expand our enrollment and seek alternative funding for our schools.
(Q) Do you feel your language skills and experience in both Italian and Spanish will help you in your new position?
(A) I believe we need to reach out to all minorities and populations, not any specific nationality. My knowledge of the Spanish language will hopefully help to attract more of the Hispanic population, but we also need to reach out to the Asian population and all nationalities present in our diocese. I have also done extensive work in the Diocese of Providence training teachers and principals in accommodating children with special needs within our realm of staffing and resources for servicing. I am a parent of a child, Peter, who is on the autism spectrum. His deep faith and structured study skills are direct results of his Catholic education. I have spoken nationally for the National Catholic Education Association on how we can service children with limited resources with the right professional development of staff. I truly believe that we can widen our enrollment net by reaching out to more minorities and special needs children who are in our capability of servicing.
(Q) How would you describe the “advantage” of a Catholic education?
(A) There are so many advantages of a Catholic education. First and foremost, bringing Jesus, the center of all we do, to the children while providing a solid academic education. In our schools, faith is just not a subject that is taught, but also is lived daily by every employee in every school. You cannot beat the atmosphere of a Catholic school. Discipline problems are minimized due to the fact that in faithbased schools, children learn moral values and the power of prayer at an early age. This spiritual growth continues in our high schools and stays with them for the rest of their lives. Our schools are family based, safe schools where the Holy Spirit is alive and well. I am also a product of the former Immaculate Conception School in Westerly, RI, and my sons Peter and Andrew are products of Catholic schools, as will be my third apostle, “Baby James” Fiore.
(Q) How will you be going about meeting the school principals, staff, parents, sponsors, boards, the students themselves – all the stakeholders in the school system?
(A) I am a people person and love to meet everyone involved in our schools. Everyone is a stakeholder and an active participant in the active lives of our schools. I will be visiting all of the schools and their constituents with the goal of working with them for constant improvement and to help market the good things they all are doing. It is important for me to listen to input from everybody. I want to absorb all I can, especially this first year.
(Q) What would be your definition of leadership?
(A) My style of leadership is being a servant leader. I told all of the principals on the very first day I met them as a group that the only difference between my ministry and theirs is function, not importance. I am here to serve and assist. Jesus is a good role model for me in that respect. You could not ask for a better one!!!
(Q) How do you plan on measuring success against objectives over the mid and long term?
(A) Academically, through test scores. Spiritually, through observations and conversations with the constituents and especially the pastors. Financially, through reviewing budgets and working with the schools.
(Q) Are you a sports fan? Favorite sport? Favorite book most recently read. Favorite inspirational quote?
(A) I am a true baseball fan and am an avid New York Mets fan. I have engrained the Mets culture in my sons, one of whom, Andrew, presents an on air weekly “Mets report” on our local Westerly radio station WBLQ. My wife, Eileen, is a mezzosoprano and church cantor. She also sings the National Anthem before baseball games here in Norwich at Dodd Stadium for the CT Tigers occasionally, so we have become CT Tigers fans as well; I do not dislike any CT team. The most recent book I read was Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, written by my good friend, Dr. Barry Prizant. My family and I were blessed to actually be part of the online course from Simon and Schuster associated with the book. My favorite book of all time is Life of Christ, by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. My favorite inspirational quote is from Blessed Mother Teresa (soon to be a saint in September): "Be Jesus to everyone you meet. And in everyone you meet, see Jesus."
I also believe that Bishop Cote’s Motto: "Above All Charity” is very inspiring as well.
The Diocesan School Office of the Diocese of Norwich provides leadership in Catholic education to pastors, principals, teachers, staff, parents, and students of its schools. Mindful of Catholic social teachings and Gospel values, it recommends and directs school policies and procedures. It encourages the development of the whole person in the Catholic educational environment. It emphasizes a lifetime respect for oneself and others, honesty, justice, and peace, service of the needy, and the value of academic achievement. Although Catholic schools in the State of Connecticut have been in existence for well over 100 years, the Diocese of Norwich, located in Eastern Connecticut, was established on August 6, 1953.
The Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Norwich consist of twelve elementary schools, two 9-12 high schools and one school with grades 6-12. In addition there are two private independent Catholic Schools, a clinical day school program for adolescent boys and young men and two pre-school programs. The total population of the schools in the Norwich Diocese numbers about 4,500.
Students at St. Patrick Cathedral School welcome home the Bishop from his "Year of Faith"
pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Photo by Donna Antonacci.
I wish to invite all people in the Diocese of Norwich to commend with me the work and sacrifices that our Catholic educators make to bring to children and young adults their heritage of Faith and living, modeled on the life of Jesus Christ.
It is widely recognized today that our Catholic schools provide an excellent and comprehensive opportunity for young people to grow and learn because of the positive environment in which they operate. Let us do whatever we can to support our Catholic schools so that they can continue to be the critical area for development of members of our Church and society. I personally reaffirm the recent message of our United States Catholic Bishops which stated:
"We must respond to challenging times with faith, vision, and the will to succeed because the Catholic schools mission is vital to the future of our young people, our nation, and most especially our Church." (Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary & Secondary School in the Third Millennium, USCCB, June 2005)
I pray for God's special blessing on all who serve our Church in Catholic Education
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop of Norwich