Remember when you first dreamed of becoming a Catholic, educational leader? Did you truthfully understand the enormity that someday you would be responsible for so many lives? Each day hundreds and sometimes thousands of parents entrust their most precious asset, their children, to you. And what about the faculty, staff, and community that you influence? Don't they frequently turn to you for leadership, knowledge, guidance, and assistance? As a Catholic school leader you hold the lion's share of accountability for student safety, quality of instruction, and community satisfaction as well as the usual executive oversight for efficient operations, financial stewardship, strategic initiatives, community relations, and organizational culture. Catholic education in the 21st century demands that these items be essential cores to your mission, because we are fortunate to serve humanity by forming the hearts, minds, and souls of tomorrow's leaders.
So how can Catholic school leaders build a culture of excellence?
I believe that excellence within a Catholic school begins with school leadership. To create an excellent Catholic school, the leaders must be excellent themselves: They must not only believe in but manifest in their actions a passion for the school’s mission, its vision, and its values. Assuming a deep commitment to the school’s mission and alignment with the desired values exists in leadership, the next steps are to Find Faith and Seek Service, Invest in the Best, and Reinforce the Expectation of Excellence. Organization, education, and administrative skills are important too, but excellence depends on deep alignment around these three intangibles.
Find Faith and Seek Service
The primary focus of Catholic schools is to participate in the Church's evangelizing mission of bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth. More specifically, Catholic schools are places of evangelization for the young. To create a school of excellence, leaders must place the responsibility of finding faith and seeking service at the top of their administrative agenda. It’s not enough for schools to teach students the faith; we must prepare our students to live that faith in practice. By the very nature of Catholic schools we already create a host of opportunities for students to learn and practice the Gospel values. While each school community is unique, these suggestions provide opportunities for schools to expand upon the mission of Catholic education. Catholic schools traditionally require service hours and offer opportunities for school prayer and Mass. As a Catholic school leader seek ways to expand upon the current practices in your school. Find opportunities for additional all-school and community Masses. Create opportunities for the faculty and staff to come together more frequently to celebrate the Eucharist. Add school-wide prayers like The Angelus or Rosary to enhance your Catholic identify and make faith an integral part of the daily experience. Explore avenues to grow the current service program. Consider having extracurricular groups commit a weekend afternoon to a service project, take your student body off-campus for a day of service, invite non-profit organizations in to speak to your students and educate them about their service to the community. Finding additional time to celebrate our faith and seeking additional service opportunities will model to students and staff how to live and practice the Catholic faith; it will keep our schools uniquely Catholic, and will strengthen our world today and tomorrow.
Invest in the Best,
Schools throughout the United States, regardless if they are suburban, urban, rural, private, public, or charter, are all facing difficult budgetary decisions and restraints. Having served two Catholic schools whose budgets are driven by enrollment and fundraising, my experience has been no different than any other Catholic educator across the country. The best financial allocation...
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