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Aspiring leaders gather for Catholic schools office training

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BRAINTREE -- Nineteen aspiring leaders and four apprentice principals recently gathered to discuss school governance models and to hear from a panel of three experts from Archdiocese of Boston Catholic schools. This session began with the aspiring leaders meeting in small groups that changed every 10 minutes and they discussed school governance models, benchmarks, and diversity of stakeholders.

Associate Superintendent of Leadership and Mission Effectiveness Dan Roy organized the event.

"This program is one of nine monthly in-person meetings during the school year that is designed to introduce and train aspiring leaders in topics that are essential in the successful administration of a school. Each meeting is complemented by a virtual meeting held beforehand during which participants prepare via assigned readings and discussions with school administration," he said.

An attendee observed that teachers are fully immersed in their roles as educators, and it was "interesting to consider the role of board members and administrators in their participation of the end game, (to examine) which people and the roles they play to reach the end goal" of a school's mission and strategic plan.

Director of Data and Research Annie Smith, who co-authored the Catholic Schools Office Board Guide, offered some advice.

"I suggest that your school has a small board with 7-10 members, but also has robust committees. Ask a subject matter expert to work on a committee, and then you can transition that person to the board if they have a passion for the role. For example, you could reach out to someone in the finance world to help set tuition. That person could serve as a consultant, or they could ultimately join the board if they are a good fit and are interested in making a larger commitment of time and talent to the school," she said.

Three members of Archdiocese of Boston Catholic schools also acted as panelists for the aspiring leaders: Cathy Cameron, principal of Quincy Catholic Academy; Father John Currie, pastor of St. Patrick School, Roxbury; and Bill Burke, headmaster of St. Sebastian's School, Needham and board chair of Trinity Catholic Academy in Brockton.

Cathy Cameron spoke about her career history. She worked in Catholic schools for almost two decades and then moved to a public school.

"I worked in a public school, and I was making triple the salary. The money was wonderful, but I had gone to Catholic schools my entire life, and I had taught in Catholic schools my entire life. I gave up the money after one year, and I went back to a Catholic school. I don't regret it for a second," Cameron said.

Father Currie answered a question about the role of a pastor in a Catholic school.

He said, "If there isn't a synergy with the principal, a like-mindedness, a shared belief in mission and openness to one another, and a holding of that relationship in deep trust, a school can quickly be derailed. The pastor and principal must be on the same page, working together."

Bill Burke is in his 29th year of leading St. Sebastian's. He fielded a question about maintaining Catholic identity. "If you want your parents to love you, you love their children. You remind the parents that the only reason the school exists is because of Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior. Sell the academics and the mission at the same time -- our goal is to get their sons to heaven."

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