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Rising to Leadership: Reflections from a Principal at a Dual-Campus, Multi-Parish School

Written by Rebecca Devine on Wednesday, 02 March 2016.

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“I stumbled across a little thing called ACE, and it completely changed my life."

Michael Debri, a graduate of ACE Teaching Fellows and the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program (RLP), originally intended to teach in a public high school after graduating from college. Before ACE, Debri explained, he had “no idea how important community is, for schools and for the Church.” After two years in a third grade classroom as an ACE Teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, Debri took a job as the assistant principal of All Saints Academy in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mike Debri All Saints Academy School LeaderDuring his time as assistant principal, RLP crossed his radar, but he doubted that he would find the same quality of community he had experienced in ACE. “Like so many times,” Debri said, “what I found is that with the Holy Spirit, you can think you have it figured it out, but God has other plans.”

Regardless of whether a teacher goes on to become a principal someday, Debri said, RLP is a priceless process of development and discernment. He credits the program for helping him become not only an effective school leader, but also a “better educator and better advocate for Catholic education.” Furthermore, Debri noted, “All dedicated and passionate teachers should ask their administrators for opportunities to lead---by serving as an athletic director or heading a committee---so that they can discern whether or not the Holy Spirit is pointing out leadership strengths. You have to let providence play a role.”

Today, Debri leads All Saints as one of the few dual-campus, multi-parish schools. Leading the team of deans, Debri feels strongly that every leader should have access to “a sounding board of people who all bring different perspectives.” When difficult decisions arise or he needs to move between campuses quickly, the organization and professionalism of staff becomes even more evident.

In addition to his colleagues at All Saints, Debri relies on the deep and lasting friendships he formed while in RLP. The RLP community of school leaders continue to pray together and “lean on each other for resources,” from every corner of the country.

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