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Expectations for the Catholic School Principal

Developed for use by pastors and school board members. This book will help outline the responsibilities of the Catholic school principal.

Maria J. Ciriello, OP, Ph.D, wrote Expectations for the Catholic School Principal: A Handbook for Pastors and Parish School committees, as a companion to the three volume set Formation and Development for Catholic School Leaders: A Three-Volume Preparation Program for Future and Neophyte Principals. The purpose of the series is to address the unique mission of the Catholic school and "special demands" of Catholic school principals. The book is divided into chapter essays with a specific theme for consideration.

While this book was developed by the United States Catholic Conference the essentials hold true for most school boards, superintendents, and pastors. One of the major stressors for Catholic school principals is the misunderstandings that exist between school boards, pastors, and the principal. These misunderstandings occur due to a lack of knowledge of the area of responsibility of the principal.

Appropriately the book opens with "The Principal as SPIRITUAL LEADER." This area of Catholic school education is often overlooked by school board members and parents. They see the Catholic school as an academy rather than a place for nurturing faith. This chapter calls the school board to consider this role as the foremost challenge of the principal, and by extension, themselves. This chapter, as do all the chapters, contains reflection questions. These questions go beyond, "How do you feel…." They challenge the school board to identify and develop action plans and duties for themselves and the principal.

These duties are above simple "to do" lists for the principal. Instead they seek to identify areas in which the school can improve itself and its adherence to Catholic Christian teachings. If school boards fully reflect on these questions and follow their conclusions the principal will be empowered to be an educational leader rather than a bureaucrat. Examples of these type questions are:

Review the various components of the job description of the principal in your school. How many opportunities to articulate and model Christian leadership in the area of moral development can you identify

How are teachers and the school staff assisted in understanding their role in imparting gospel values in a Catholic school? Are faculty and staff involved in planning and assessing the curriculum and instructional strategies??

Too often school boards, and parents, assume they are the hiring authority for the principal and teachers. Unlike public school systems the principal does not "answer" to the school board. The pastor is the supervising authority of the principal. While Expectations for the Catholic School Principal recognizes that fact, it also encourages the nurturing of healthy leadership on the part of the Catholic school principal. The conclusion of the last chapter/essay addresses this problem. Understanding must be sought within the traditions of the Church and not in the American public school model.

Sr. Ciriello has created not just another manual to sit in the file of a school board president. She has developed an instrument by which the school board, principal, staff, and entire school may grow and benefit. By honestly looking at expectations of parents and the teachings of the Catholic Church Sr. Ciriello has offered a challenge to nurture the entire student via the relationship between principal and school board.

Sr. Ciriello draws on her own vast experience as an associate professor of education at The Catholic University of America, and the Dean of the School of Education at The University of Portland. This is a handbook that should be read and discussed by every Catholic school board and pastor in the United States. Its focus on gospel values also makes it a valuable addition to any Christian school’s professional collection.

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