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The Center for Transformational Educational Leadership is designed to deepen and enrich the capacity of Catholic school principals and leaders, strengthening current principals to become the most remarkable Catholic school leaders in the nation.

Our Mission

The need for transformational leadership in Catholic schools and classrooms has reached crisis proportions across the United States. Since the year 2000, 2,311 Catholic schools have closed. As a result of these closures, nearly 715,000 fewer children enjoy the advantages of Catholic schools today. While some expect the financial challenges that beset Catholic schools will ensure an inevitable and continued decline, research and experience suggest that this tide can be turned with bold action.

Center for Transformational Educational Leadership - Leader working with studentToday, more than 5,000 principals head Catholic elementary schools; many of these principals are capable leaders who are nevertheless overwhelmed by the demands of 21st century school leadership—demands that have contributed to the accelerating pace of Catholic school closures in the United States. 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 that same time, they need to be able to establish a rich school culture that holds high expectations for academic achievement and that is, at the same time, authentically Catholic.

At Notre Dame, we believe that excellent professional development can indeed accomplish all these goals. In order to achieve significant and extensive revitalization of America’s Catholic schools, ACE has prioritized the development of high-quality professional formation to prepare a critical mass of today’s school leaders. The Center for Transformational Educational Leadership is designed to deepen and enrich the capacity of Catholic school principals and leaders, strengthening current principals to become the most remarkable Catholic school leaders in the nation, equally focused and prepared to provide strong instructional leadership, effective managerial and operational leadership, and inspiring spiritual leadership.

Fellows of the Center for Transformational Educational Leadership will be marked by a zealous esprit de corps vital to establishing an excellent and compelling leadership identity in the Catholic school and education reform worlds. These fellows will form a cadre of outstanding school leaders at both the (arch)diocesan and national levels, serving as mentors and coaches for each other and fellow Catholic school leaders to continue to strengthen this mission beyond their scope of the individual school communities.

Program Overview

Fellows of the Center for Transformational Educational Leadership participate in a two-year professional development program that includes the following components detailed below:

All fellows will participate in an intensive weeklong institute at the University of Notre Dame over successive summers in which leaders will engage in outstanding professional development built around best practices found in the highest performing schools in the country. In addition, the leaders will also have manifold opportunities to renew and strengthen their faith by participating in the powerful prayer and Eucharistic celebrations foundational for all ACE programs throughout the summer.

2021 Summer Institute Dates: Sunday, June 13 through Friday, June 18, 2021

Each leader will receive weekly one-to-one executive coaching focused on 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 leader’s growth in high-leverage leadership competencies. In addition to focusing on customized leadership goals, executive coaches will drive the leader to execute implementation of best practices found in the highest quality schools in the country. These coaches will also continue to instill in the leaders a growth mindset fixated on excellence in the name of Christ.

The Center staff has a wealth of experience in turning around and creating phenomenal faith-based urban schools. Our staff has used that experience to develop road maps for school transformation. These road maps will serve as a guide for leaders to lead their schools to new levels of excellence in academics, school culture, and student spiritual formation. As the initial set of fellows begin to create transformational school environments, this will begin the movement of a renewed focus for Catholic schools as we compete with and surpass our charter and district colleagues in terms of school quality. All of this done to advance the cause for Christ and his church.

Center for Transformational Educational Leadership - Kids on playgroundTo support the development of a strong local cohort, the executive coaches will facilitate monthly training workshops, bringing together all of the leaders in the community to pray, reflect, share ideas, provide support, and disseminate best practices. Additionally, executive coaches will facilitate field trips to high-performing schools for the individual leader and a member of their leadership team. The guided, monthly visits to highly effective schools will serve as introductions to workshops on high-leverage leadership concepts and skills, exposing the leaders to exemplary schools and best practices.

To foster spiritual growth and nurture a professional learning community of Catholic school leaders who can build vibrant faith communities in their schools, fellows will participate in five retreats: one each at the beginning and end of the two-year program, again at the beginning of the second summer institute, and once during the middle of each academic year. 

Center for Transformational Educational Leadership - Leader with kidsTwo to three times per year, fellows will travel together to various cities across the country to observe and deeply immerse themselves in some of the highest quality schools in the country. These two-day experiences will be facilitated by Center faculty, as the leaders will observe what makes these schools work and how best to take learnings back to individual school contexts. The faculty will conduct deep analysis through joint school observations with the leaders and facilitate professional development workshops focused on implementation and execution of best practices gleaned from these observations. These immersion experiences are critical in helping our highest potential leaders develop a grander vision for what is possible.

After the leaders complete the program, executive coaches will continue to provide support and to maintain strong relationships with the leaders over time. The leaders will have the option to participate in ongoing executive coaching in third and fourth years to assist them in meeting transformational leadership goals.


Thank you for your interest in becoming a fellow of the Center for Transformational Educational Leadership! Applications for the fifth cohort that will begin in the Summer 2021 are due by March 29, 2021. 

Interested candidates must be a current Catholic school principal or leader within the Archdiocese of Chicago. Additionally, all candidates must hold certification as a school building administrator.

Interested candidates will complete a comprehensive application process to ensure they possess the beliefs, requisite skills, and organizational capacity to significantly benefit from and contribute to the program. A team from the Center will conduct site visits to observe leaders within the context of their school communities to assess the dispositions and traits of the individual leader. Successful candidates will embrace a strong growth mindset, communicate their belief that all students can achieve at a high level through strong faith formation and effective instruction, and personify the disposition and capacity to embrace intensive executive coaching in order to lead transformational change in their school community.

Before beginning an application we strongly encourage applicants to read through the entire Application Guide found below. We strongly encourage all applicants to gather the necessary information and write out the short essay questions in the Application Guide prior to beginning the application.

If you have additional questions or want to receive more information about the Center for Transformational Educational Leadership, please contact Dr. Greg O’Donnell at

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