HARTFORD – In its ongoing commitment to strengthen Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Office of Catholic Schools has introduced an innovative leadership program in partnership with a top-ranked university.
The Catholic School Leadership Academy is a graduate-level course developed by the archdiocese’s central school office with Creighton University in Omaha. It is the first course in a two-year program aimed at aspiring and first-year principals within archdiocesan schools. After completing the course, participants can take three additional classes to earn a certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Creighton.
A major goal of the academy is to help “participants to understand the culture of Hartford Catholic schools,” said Dr. Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent. The academy is based on the four benchmarks of effective Catholic education, mission formation and evangelization, excellence in teaching and learning, leadership and governance, and operational vitality, he said.
Dr. Hoyt, who is also an adjunct faculty member of Creighton University, is among seven members of the central office’s team who are seminar presenters for the course.
“The first few classes have been on religious education,” said Dr. Hoyt. These sessions were designed to provide participants with an understanding of our “religious curriculum, how it has emerged, how it was developed and how that was implemented.”
Early class sessions also focused on faith formation programs for teachers and administrators. They also considered key responsibilities of archdiocesan school leaders, such as mission formation and mission and faith leadership.
“It’s a lot of information,” said Kerri Work, a middle school history and religion teacher at St. Mary School in Simsbury who is taking the course. “You are getting a lot of information on every aspect of running a school and you are forming connections and camaraderie with other people in the diocese. I think those connections strengthen everything you do.”
The academy includes 10 sessions, which started in January. They are held in classrooms at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, and online, using technology provided by Creighton University. There are13 students in the inaugural academy. Two are first-year principals; 11 are teachers.
“Generally, there are multiple readings, and after each class we have to write a reflective paper,” said Kathleen Walch, who teaches middle school history and religion at Southington Catholic School. “The course, so far, has been very reflective, and I like that. There's a lot of discussion and that's a very positive aspect of it.”
Dr. Daniel Dowe, an English teacher and department chair at East Catholic High School in Manchester, credited the archdiocese and central school office for trying to find innovative ways to identify and prepare good candidates for administrative jobs in the diocese. “I think they’ve come up with a creative way to find good people who are dedicated and most likely to stay in the system,” said Dr. Dowe.
The people in the program “are all known quantities,” he said. “For the most part, we are veteran teachers. It’s a great thing when you can take people you already know, can trust, and know work well and bring them up to another level in terms of [career development].”
The idea of the Catholic School Leadership Academy has been percolating for several years. Last year, Maria Maynard, deputy superintendent, was asked to develop the course in partnership with Creighton University.
Participants are required to hold at least a master’s degree and preferably have five years classroom teaching experience, said Mrs. Maynard. A pastor must also verify that they are actively practicing Catholics in good standing with the church.
The partnership with Creighton provides access to the technology that helps make the program convenient and accessible to busy teachers.
Those who earn the Catholic School Leadership Certificate will have 12 graduate credits that can be applied toward an additional master’s.
In December, Jay Hartling, principal of East Catholic High School in Manchester, and David Eustis, president of Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, earned Catholic School Leadership Certificates from Creighton.