Hagstrom takes up reins at Catholic Schools Network
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Posted by: Administration
Mike Hagstrom, president of St. John Paul II Schools Catholic Network, stands Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in front of the chapel at Shanley High School, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
FARGO - Sometimes the job you're not looking for finds you anyway.
Case in point: Mike Hagstrom.
The president of the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools network didn't initially consider taking a shot at the post when it was announced that former Superintendent Mike Smith was leaving.
But friends and supporters encouraged him to apply — and he ended up winning the job.
Now, 31 years after he was first hired to teach religion at Shanley High School, he's the guy making the decisions for the network's five schools, as well as directing the nine other North Dakota schools in the Fargo Diocese.
Hagstrom took over on July 1 and he's had a good start.
JPII's prekindergarten through 12th grade first-day enrollment was 1,202 this fall, up 70 from the start of classes last year. Since then, another handful of students have enrolled.
"There's a good trajectory, a good spirit," in the JPII system now, Hagstrom said.
Fargo Diocese Bishop John Folda, who attended Catholic schools, also has a passion for Catholic education, Hagstrom said.
"His support has been invaluable," he said.
Hagstrom, who turns 57 on Monday, Sept. 5, earned a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in theology from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.
The north Fargo resident said it has been a strange start to the school year after decades of teaching.
"I'm grieving a little bit the classroom right now," he said.
But the newly minted administrator has other things to juggle.
This year's enrollment increase was nice, but JPII's Enroll 360 initiative has nearly 300 more students to attract by 2020 to reach its goal.
The network must also find ways to increase teacher, coach and staff salaries to compete with the public school systems in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo.
"We're falling short in terms of wages," Hagstrom said. "I'm grateful for the people that work here. ... and their commitment to our schools. We have a great crew."
At the same time, the price of a Catholic education can't go out of reach of the people you're trying to serve, he said.
"We want tuition low. We want any Catholic family that wants to attend our schools to attend our schools," Hagstrom said.
That will mean working with parishes and alumni to add to endowment and scholarship funds so that balance can be struck, he said.
Hagstrom is proud of the network's tradition of academic excellence, with high ACT scores and regular crops of Merit Scholars among Shanley High School students. The network also has strong extracurricular programs that help students explore their talents.
But as important as numbers are in an era when data is a driver in education, numbers shouldn't be the singular focus, he said.
There needs to be something more.
"You can do all the numbers, but I want to see graduates change the world. People who are on fire: bright, articulate and knowledgeable, who live their faith and transform the world."