Magazine article Momentum

Sowing Seeds of Leadership: Through an Aspiring Leadership Academy

Magazine article Momentum

Sowing Seeds of Leadership: Through an Aspiring Leadership Academy

Article excerpt

It is no secret that in any organization, the leader sets the tone. This sentiment rings especially true in a Catholic school setting, which brings with it specific challenges for school leadership. Indeed, Catholic school leadership is an interdisciplinary venture requiring leaders to be not only primar)' academic practitioners, but strategic, entrepreneurial and visionary leaders, as well. And imbued in it all is the essential ministry of faith leadership - that our Catholic school identity is woven and proclaimed in all dimensions of the school community. Archbishop J. Michael Miller confirmed this point in his essay, The Holy See's Teaching on Catholic Schools (2006), where he stated that educators in Catholic schools require a spiritual formation along with a professional formation, both within the context of the school community and in preparation for a ministry in education. With regard to specific formation of Catholic school leaders, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) highlighted the necessity for dynamic spiritual development for school leaders, stating that such formation is crucial if we expect our schools to remain truly Catholic. Certainly, the challenges of Catholic school leadership are unique and they require scrutiny if we seek to maintain the Catholic identity of our schools.

Contending With Exodus

Abstract concerns about Catholic school leadership became very concrete in the Diocese of Manchester in the spring of 2014, when nearly half of our principals retired or moved on to other positions. Search committees were empaneled, applications arrived and interviews were conducted. And what was most surprising amid this flurry of activity was that while we eventually appointed 11 new principals in a matter of months, only one of those appointments was an internal candidate. Recognizing a need to cultivate leadership from within, we set out to develop a leadership formation program for the 2015-16 school year through which experienced principals would mentor aspiring leaders who were discerning a vocation in Catholic school leadership. In the fall of 2015, five willing principals and five aspiring leaders (protégés) joined together as members of the inaugural cohort of the Diocese of Manchester Aspiring Leadership Academy.

Structuring a Program Based in Theory and Praxis

Effective professional development involves ongoing processes of collaboration and reflection (Fullan, 1993). With this in mind, our goal was to structure a yearlong experience for the participants to encounter Church documents and scholarly writing about Catholic school leadership in a collaborative way, to provide time to reflect, and to build in opportunities for protégés to practice learned skills by taking on dayto-day leadership roles in the school community. To achieve this aim, we turned to the Catholic School leadership Framework that was developed by Creighton University (2007) in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Omaha.

The basic structure of the Aspiring Leadership Academy involved monthly examination of the six domains of Catholic school leadership proposed in the Catholic School leadership Framework. These domains include faith leadership, mission leadership, organizational leadership, educational leadership, community and political leadership, and strategic leadership. Each month, principals and protégés examined selected Church documents and scholarly articles about the given theme. All participants met monthly for a seminar discussion or presentation from an expert in that area. …

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