Catholic Schools Partnership
Offices of Catholic Schools were included in the IL-PART project because it was acknowledged by the partners that universities do not just prepare principals for public schools, but they also prepare principals for private schools that face many of the same challenges as the identified high need districts. Offices of Catholic Schools were selected to participate based on the following criteria:
1) they are located in the same area and serve a similar population as the eligible high-need partner district (as defined by the U.S. Department of Education);
2) they require that their principals and teacher hold valid Illinois educator licenses;
3) university partners sometimes place principal interns in their school buildings;
4) because they are part of a network of schools throughout the state that possess a deep commitment to improving teaching and learning.
With the ever expanding range of student needs within schools, diocesan offices of education are committed to producing highly effective school leaders who are prepared to meet the challenges that administrators face today. The Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University - Chicago has coordinated the participation in the IL-PART project of qualified private schools.
Recognizing early on that geography would be the biggest challenge, staff from the Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic School (GCCE) established a plan to: cultivate working relationships with the diocesan office around leadership issues, connect directly with local Catholic schools, and work with various stakeholders to develop a plan to help address the leadership pipeline needs. Over the past 2 years a great relationship has been developed with the Diocese of Rockford and Springfield. The Diocese of Peoria has participated in meetings but has expressed that they are currently working on a number of initiatives and are conservatively choosing projects that align to their strategic plan goals.
To increase the visibility of GCCE with partner schools, a series of site visits by the GCCE IL-PART coordinator to grant area schools was completed. These site visits helped to illuminate the challenges in each unique school. These experiences helped to inform the development of a survey for partner dioceses. The survey was used to identify the immediate and long-term professional development needs of the principals. Additional information regarding professional development of the current principals was also gathered. The survey suggested that there is very high satisfaction rate among the principals that were surveyed, but many of them were concerned with the lack of professional development for them and the reality of leadership succession planning.