ACE Launches Superintendents' Initiative
Five superintendents of Catholic schools from across the country met recently at Notre Dame for ACE’s first “Superintendents’ Initiative,” a program to create a network of support and provide professional development for current superintendents. The participants—who call themselves “Cohort 0”—crafted a vision for how the Initiative can respond to needs specific to them, build community and provide professional development for superintendents who are so often focused on supporting others in their respective dioceses.
As Archdiocese of Cincinnati Superintendent and Director of Educational Services Susan Gibbons explained, it can be difficult for superintendents to connect with one another because they are often geographically isolated.
“This has been a great [opportunity] to spend time with other people who are doing the same kind of job and who have the same mission and ministry as I do,” Gibbons said.
While ACE’s Center for Transformational Educational Leadership supports current principals with a summer institute and opportunities for collaboration and coaching, no formal program existed for superintendents. With support from ACE Executive Director John Staud and Archdiocese of Chicago Superintendent Jim Rigg, Sr. Kathleen Carr, C.S.J., convened a small group of superintendents at NCEA’s Catholic Leadership Summit in October 2017 to begin planning this summer’s Initiative.
“ACE has always been responsive to the needs of the Catholic school communities,” said Carr, ACE’s senior advisor and the former superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. The Superintendents’ Initiative is ACE’s latest response to an invitation to develop a program focused on archdiocesan educational leaders.
At this summer’s Initiative, participating superintendents addressed three goals: to build professional relationships with one another, to reflect on their own professional lives in order to better understand superintendents’ needs more broadly, and to develop a plan to begin addressing these identified needs in the upcoming year. Presentations at the Initiative examined national trend data on superintendents, educational trends and leadership implications and views of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding schools.
Participating superintendents, which included Gwen Byrd from the Archdiocese of Mobile and Verónica Alonzo, the associate superintendent for operations from the Diocese of Dallas, valued the opportunity to learn from one another’s experiences.
“It’s really tremendous to have the ability to come together and work on something that sustains the top-level leadership of the Church, because we spend a lot of time making sure that everyone around us can be sustained and fulfilled and professionally developed,” said Matthew Vereecke, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Dallas. “Having a formal, structured program where we can all come together and work on that professional nourishment is really exciting.”
Carr said that the Initiative is marked by programming that is responsive to the distinct needs of each year’s cohort.
“This cohort [asked]: ‘What are the challenges in this cohort, and how can ACE help frame a program to address the concerns and the challenges that [we] are facing?’”
At the conference, superintendents identified needs for stronger professional community with one another, ongoing professional development, and opportunities for nourishing their spiritual growth. Plans are being developed to address these needs. In the upcoming year, the summer Initiative participants will also be joined by three other “Cohort 0” superintendents: Kevin Baxter from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Jenn Beltramo from the Diocese of San Jose, and Gina Fleming from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
“For me, this was a great moment to step back, to check in with one another and see where we are on our own journey, and to begin to put together a structure and a plan for the future,” Rigg said. “This is the first of what I know will be a continued conversation among us.”