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Leadership Academy forms the next generation of Catholic school leaders

Educators who are part of this year’s Leadership Academy sponsored by The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Schools Office participate in a learning session exploring different leadership topics. (Photo courtesy of Anne D. Dillon)

Every Catholic school leader recognizes Christ as the center of his or her school and understands the essential role of evangelization. Although our schools’ mission rooted in Gospel values remains, the role of a Catholic school leader has changed over the years. What was once focused primarily on a faith-filled environment, quality academics and sound management now include knowledge of assessment practices, data analysis, recruitment, budget and finances, and health and safety. The list goes on and on.

Good leaders know the importance of developing new leaders from within the organization. “I believe it is our responsibility to nurture and cultivate the future leaders of our schools,” said Kelly Branaman, the Secretary for Catholic Schools and Superintendent of Schools for The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

The premise of the Leadership Academy is to find, develop, and form new leaders for our schools.

Wendy Anderson, former associate superintendent in the Catholic Schools Office (CSO), established the Leadership Academy more than a decade ago. Under the direction of former superintendent Deacon Bert L’Homme, the goal was to develop talent from within. Anderson said, “Candidates for new principal positions were all from out of state,” but knowing talent existed in our schools, the cademy was born.

Currently, Chris Buchleitner, associate superintendent, leads the academy. With a newly developed curriculum, Buchleitner invites the CSO leadership team to play an integral role in each meeting. He said, “We can identify our future leaders and begin to prepare them for their journey to transition into leadership positions. We do this by sharing current challenges and engaging them in situations to where they can help to develop solutions.”

Meagan Kimm, a participant from St. Peter’s School in Waldorf agreed: “Hearing and learning from the different ADW members has been very encouraging.”

The Leadership Academy for the 2022-23 school year has 20 participants representing schools throughout The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Nominated by their principal, future leaders participate in five sessions throughout the year exploring different leadership topics centered on the four pillars of Catholic education: Catholic Identity, Academic Excellence, Accessibility and Affordability, and Governance. Each new leader will complete a school improvement project focusing on a wide range of topics which may include instructional leadership, Catholic identify initiatives, marketing and enrollment strategies, and school safety practices.

Each meeting has a new focus with opportunity to collaborate and network. A comfortable atmosphere lends itself to many positive interactions and experiences.

Deacon Kenneth Scheiber from St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, said he enjoys “the collegial atmosphere and honest desire to improve the quality of Catholic education by investing in human resources already present in our schools.”

Catholic school future leaders express various goals for which they want to gain from the academy.

Coretta Street from Annunciation School in Washington, D.C. said she hopes to “find new, innovative ways of motivating others and providing feedback.” Meghan Matthews at Blessed Sacrament School, also in Washington, D.C. said she wants to “make connections with leaders at other schools.”

The Leadership Academy is midway through the school year with very promising talent. Developing that talent is key to the quality of our schools.  “There is no such thing as a natural born Catholic school principal,” Branaman said.

The Leadership Academy allows future leaders to learn and grow into leadership roles specific to our Catholic schools. “This is a great opportunity for our superintendent to be introduced to our future leaders. Being able to identify talent prior to filling a leadership position gives us confidence in making selections,” Buchleitner said.

As the Leadership Academy moves forward, benefits for both the new leader and the Catholic Schools Office are realized. Working with talent within The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington schools allows our mission to continue.

(Anne D. Dillon is the assistant superintendent for school operations and student services for The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.)