Kevin Kijewski’s journey to becoming superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Denver has been anything but straightforward. From high school teacher in Denver as part of ACE Teaching Fellows, to law school, to a term as Dean of Business Administration at a small college in Michigan before serving as associate superintendent in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and finally back to Denver, his path has been roundabout. His mission for Catholic schools in Denver, however, is as direct as possible.“I want to create a model here in Denver that’s going to make Catholic schools sustainable, make them grow, and predominantly, help kids get to heaven.”
Kijewski is the seventh graduate of one of the Alliance for Catholic Education’s (ACE) formation programs to serve as superintendent of schools for an (arch)diocese, and he said his emphasis as superintendent, a post he begins full-time on July 1, will focus on three key goals.
“It’s all about growth, innovation, and leadership,” he said. “That’s what we have to do.”
In order to fulfill these goals, Kijewski said he knows he needs strong leaders in his schools. These leaders need to have a growth mindset, while also making sure schools do not lose any of their Catholic identity.
“With Catholic schools leaders, I’m looking for a few things,” he said. “First, someone who is definitely Catholic, able to evangelize and live out his or her faith. Second, someone with very rigorous academic goals, not only for the actual students in the classroom, but someone who is able to facilitate academic goal-setting with his or her staff. In short, I look for someone who is faith-filled, supports academic rigor, and that has solid preparation.”
Catholic identity is something Kijewski takes very seriously, and he said he wants to make sure that the schools in Denver remain on being Catholic schools. “We’re Catholic for a reason, and we have to be very proud of that,” he said. “We should not attempt to hide it. Being Catholic doesn’t mean that we have to just talk about being a good secular human, or talking about morals, but really trying to engage in the New Evangelization for those who are already Catholic. And for those who are not Catholic, it means showing them exactly what the Church is about and to welcome them and show them the rich, intellectual tradition of the Catholic faith.
Kijewski said accomplishing another of his three goals—growth—is tied together closely with ministering to the Latino population in Denver, who make up a large section of the Catholic population but not of those enrolled in Catholic schools. “When you take a look at Catholic school enrollment for Latinos, it’s relatively low and needs to go way up,” he said. “It’s not just because it’s the future of our Church. It’s a civil rights issue. We have to figure out ways to be more hospitable and welcoming, but also find ways of fitting into their culture.“If we’re able to appropriately serve—both academically and spiritually—the Latino community, we’re going to be able to increase the sustainability and viability of our Catholic schools. It’s a win-win proposition.”
Kijewski said that all his efforts, and the efforts of those who work in Catholic schools, should be rooted in one core belief.“Fundamentally, a Catholic school is a way to get kids to heaven; it creates saints for this life and the next,” he said.
Read more about Kevin's appointment on the Archdiocese of Denver website.
Photo credit: Julie Filby, Denver Catholic