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What We Do

The ACE Principal Academy deepens and enriches the capacity of Catholic school principals, strengthening and sustaining current administrators to become the most remarkable Catholic school leaders in the nation. The ACE Principal Academy partners with (arch)dioceses to provide high-quality professional development and coaching for school principals, through an explicitly Catholic lens.

This professional formation occurs primarily through the 2-year Cabrini Fellowship for Catholic school principals. For more information about the fellowship, see our "Fellowship Programming" page. The ACE Principal Academy team also provides professional development and other avenues of support for (arch)dioceses and school leaders. Please submit this form to request a session or connect with the team about opportunities in your local community. 


Our Mission

Center for Transformational Educational Leadership - Leader working with student

Today’s Catholic school leaders require a complex skill set that is distinctive in the education sector. They need to be instructional leaders who can drive student success by supporting teachers. They need to build relationships with community leaders, funding partners, diocesan officials, pastors, and parents. They need to manage responsibilities for compliance, enrollment management, marketing, and grassroots recruiting. At the same time, they need to be able to establish a rich school culture that holds high expectations for academic achievement and that is authentically Catholic.

At Notre Dame, we believe that the high-quality professional formation provided through ACE Principal Academy deepens and enriches school leaders’ capacity to meet these needs. 

Principal Academy Fellows are prepared to provide strong instructional leadership, effective managerial and operational leadership and, in particular, inspiring spiritual leadership. These fellows will form a cadre of outstanding school leaders within their respective (arch)diocese and in the world of education reform. Upon completion of the Principal Academy, fellows will be a resource for diocesan superintendents serving as mentors and coaches for other Catholic school leaders and supporting local efforts to sustain and strengthen the mission of Catholic school education.

Our Approach

The ACE Principal Academy forms Catholic school principals to be more effective in their leadership in three domains:

School Culture

School Culture

Establishing Intentional, Christ-Centered Cultures of Joy
Instructional Leadership

Instructional Leadership

Leading for Instructional Excellence
Executive Management

Executive Management

Winning With People

These three domains are affirmed by research that identify the most impactful behaviors of school principals to be (1) engaging in instructionally focused interactions with teachers, (2) building a productive school climate, (3) facilitating productive collaboration and professional learning communities, and (4) managing personnel and resources strategically (Grissom, Egalite, & Lindsay, 2021). School revitalization happens through transformational leaders’ fidelity to leadership habits known to yield consistent improvements in a school community.

Undergirding all three domains is a vibrant, Gospel-informed ethos, driven by the spiritual life of the leader empowered by Christ. Particularly given the challenges of disaffiliation in the United States, it is increasingly vital that Catholic school principals recognize their co-responsibility to actively serve as faith leaders in their communities.

Through the ACE Principal Academy, we are building a movement; a tightly-knit community of Catholic school leaders committed to building joyful, Christ-centered communities of excellence. As we seek to empower leaders, we are focused on habit formation as a catalyst for personal leadership growth and the accelerant for implementation and change within a school community. Principal Academy leaders develop disciplined execution of high-leverage leadership habits which engender powerful, long-lasting impact on school communities.

Fellowship Programming

The ACE Principal Academy Fellowship is a two-year program designed for highly-motivated school leaders from around the United States who are seeking to revitalize their schools. Fellows grow together in spiritual and professional communities through a series of interconnected professional development opportunities each year, in addition to receiving individualized leadership coaching for ongoing leadership growth and implementation of best practices that they are exposed to throughout the program. Each year of the fellowship participants engage in a series of interconnected formation experiences

All Fellows participate in a week-long institute at the University of Notre Dame over two successive summers. This week-long professional development experience at the University of Notre Dame provides the foundation for the learning experiences and leadership growth throughout the following school year. Throughout the Summer Institute, Fellows build a community of support with their peers while engaging in research-based professional development focused on high-leverage leadership practices found in the highest-performing schools in the country. The Summer Institute also provides opportunities for individual spiritual rejuvenation and to identify goals and priorities for their leadership of their school during the following school year.

2024 Summer Institute Dates: Saturday, July 20 through Friday, July 26, 2024

Building upon the professional development from the Summer Institute, throughout the school year, program coaches lead collaborative learning workshops. These virtual, monthly half-day sessions serve to further refine the concepts introduced in the summer and bring together all of the Fellows in the community to reflect, discuss, and plan ongoing implementation of best practices.

Twice per year, Fellows travel to various cities across the country to engage with leaders of high-quality schools and observe high-leverage educational practices. These two-day experiences are facilitated by program coaches and faculty, who lead Fellows in a process to analyze the data and findings from the school visits to identify individual action steps for Fellows to transform the leadership of their schools. These immersion experiences are critical in helping to push fellows' vision for what is possible in their schools and inspire them to set high expectations for their leadership.


Center for Transformational Educational Leadership - Leader with kids

Each Fellow receives regular one-to-one coaching focused on implementation of best practices learned through the program's professional development. This coaching is designed to enable Fellows to regularly step back from the urgent, day-to-day demands of the principalship and reflect more deeply on how and why they are exercising their leadership in order to achieve their leadership goals. Because of this job-embedded design, the executive coaching provides authentic, timely support for each leader's priority leadership tasks, while providing clear, ongoing feedback on the fellow's growth in high-leverage leadership competencies. All coaching sessions are rooted in the belief that leaders of Catholic schools can continue to grow themselves in order to better serve the needs of their community, and that they are uniquely positioned to make God known, loved, and served throughout their school community through their leadership. 

Each year, Fellows participate in a mid-year retreat that is designed to rejuvenate their faith and commitment to the ministry of leadership in Catholic schools. The weekend-long experience connects Fellows with teachings from the Gospel, providing space to reflect and foster spiritual growth, in addition to nurturing a professional learning community of Catholic school leaders who are committed to building vibrant faith communities in their schools.

Other Programs

To further the mission to foster excellence in Catholic school leaders, the ACE Principal Academy is responsive to the leadership needs of Catholic school (arch)dioceses, superintendents, and principals to offer other programs besides the Fellowship programming. If you are a superintendent, please reach out to us to discuss your needs and how we can help.