A new book from the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame gives voice to the commitment and concerns of Catholic elementary school principals across the United States and presents recommendations central to the future of Catholic school leadership.
The book, Striving for Balance, Steadfast in Faith: The Notre Dame Study of U.S. Catholic Elementary School Principals, draws upon a survey of 1,685 principals, yielding a rare, comprehensive glimpse of their views on what they need to do their jobs better and how they describe the state of Catholic education today. They identify financial management, marketing, Catholic identity, enrollment management, and long-range planning as their schools' top five areas of need.
The authors—Rev. Ronald J. Nuzzi, senior director of ACE's Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program; Anthony C. Holter, ACE's director of program evaluation and research; and James M. Frabutt, a faculty member of the Remick Leadership Program—assess an enormous amount of data from the survey, find a lively faith among their respondents, and identify problem-solving options in the spirit of the New Evangelization.
"This unprecedented study will help to inform and deepen the national dialogue about the future of Catholic schools," said Rev. Nuzzi, who is a nationally known expert and speaker on Catholic education trends. "New ideas for the support of our school principals deserve to be part of the dialogue, and in this study the principals themselves offered recommendations worth considering—such as revising the position description of principal and helping to amplify principals' voices and expertise through a new national organization."
Besides a call for "more manageable and realistic position descriptions" and a group to advocate for Catholic schools at the national level, the book presents these two recommendations:
- "Develop a program of ongoing professional development and renewal for principals" that addresses their needs, both professional and personal.
- "Convene multiple groups of national and international stakeholders to advance the understanding of Catholic schools as instruments of the new evangelization."
Based on the data obtained, "the Church seems to have hired well, attracting mission-driven and loyal individuals to the overarching goals of Catholic education." But the study, which was conducted in 2010, finds that these principals embrace a unique combination of goals, including their schools' important role in proclaiming the Gospel, in the spirit of the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith. They also live daily with what has been called "the tyranny of the urgent," hungering for more support—emotional as well as financial.
The book, which follows up on an earlier ACE study of pastors' views of Catholic education, is published by Information Age Publishing and is available for purchase in hardcover or paperback at the publisher's website.
Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education collaborates with dioceses and school leaders nationwide to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools, with a special focus on under-resourced schools serving disadvantaged children. ACE forms faith-filled educators, offers an array of professional services, and cultivates innovative solutions to critical issues. The Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, established in 2002, forms tomorrow's Catholic school leaders.