January 27, 2006

2006 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Leadership program recruits strong administrators

By Sean Gallagher

Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana have a long history of excellence. A part of maintaining this achievement record is the recruitment and training of strong candidates for administrative positions at archdiocesan schools.

For more than 10 years, the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education (OCE) has been effective in doing this through its Catholic School Leadership program.

More than half of the program’s 45 participants during its first eight years became administrators of archdiocesan schools.

Rob Rash, OCE’s associate director for schools, administrative personnel and professional development, oversees the program and thinks it is a good way for the archdiocese to be pro-active about recruiting strong school leaders.

“It’s a deliberate effort,” Rash said. “We just don’t sit around and wait for them to come.”

The Office of Catholic Education encourages current school principals to identify strong candidates among their teachers for the leadership program. Rash also offers informational sessions that let prospective principal candidates know more about it.

Over an approximately 12-month period, the program’s participants learn in 18 sessions about specific aspects of leading a Catholic school that ordinarily would not be covered in graduate school classes required for those interested in becoming principals.

Tina Albin, in her first year as the principal of St. Nicholas School in Ripley County, participated in the program last year. She had been studying for her administrator’s license at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and found that the Catholic School Leadership program helped her to become a strong school leader in the archdiocese.

“It gave me the knowledge of exactly [what] … being an administrator at a Catholic school is about,” she said.

Part of what Albin learned is the close relationship that Catholic school principals in the archdiocese form with each other and those who serve them in archdiocesan leadership.

The program helped her and the other participants form these bonds with other principals, those who work in OCE and such diverse archdiocesan leaders as Edward Isakson, director of human resources, and Jeffrey Stumpf, chief financial officer of the archdiocese.

Ruth Tinsley was a program participant with Albin and now leads St. Andrew & St. Rita Catholic Academy in Indianapolis.

Tinsley said that the relationships she formed through the program gave her a broad base of knowledge that she can use to face her center-city school’s challenges.

“You didn’t just get one possible solution,” she said. “You had the combined knowledge of everyone in the group [and the presenters] to help you solve your problem.”

Topics that the program’s presenters address include the budget process for Catholic schools, how to do job interviews, school fundraising and the professional standards for Catholic school principals.

But, according to Rash, the program is set up for its participants to gain practical knowledge in these and other areas.

“It exposes the candidates to real-world situations,” he said. “It’s designed to be more experiential than traditional textbook [learning].”

But Tinsley also noted that, in addition to helping her know the specific administrative tasks of leading a Catholic school, the program helped her be more attentive to a parish school’s overall Catholic identity.

“This allowed us to specialize,” she said. “It brought the specialty area of the Catholic [faith] in and so it reinforced the Catholic identity and how we can lead as Catholic principals.

“When I’m in a Catholic school, I can pray with my students,” Tinsley said. “I can model what it is to be an adult who is Catholic. And I can do all of that in any subject that we have here at the school, whether it be math, science or social studies. It does not have to be religion classes. It’s in what we do every day.”

The program will start again soon, and Albin encouraged Catholic school teachers who might be interested in administration to consider participating in it.

“It’s such a wonderful program for aspiring administrators to take,” she said. “It gives you a hands-on experience and knowledge of what exactly a Catholic school principal does.”

(Teachers who want to learn more about the Catholic School Leadership program should call Rob Rash at 317-236-1544 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1544.) †


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