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.
Today, 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.