A Case Study for Successful Sustainability in Secondary Catholic Schools

The following article was contributed by Dr. Diane Tucker, adjunct professor at Rowan University and Salem Community College.

Dr. Diane Tucker will be presenting, Successful Sustainability in a Secondary Catholic School, at the Institute for Catholic School Leaders (ICSL), July 16-19 in Waltham, MA (Archdiocese of Boston).

Register for the institute of Catholic School Leaders (ICSL) Conference today!

As a Catholic school educator and leader for 35 years who experienced budgetary restraints, layoffs, terminations, and school closings, I felt compelled to share my recent research findings for successful strategies in a secondary Catholic school.  My goal is to inform school leaders, who may be experiencing similar challenging situations, ways to create, develop and implement effective leadership strategies for their own school districts to thrive in the future.

Building a thriving educational system begins with strong framework. Two conceptual frameworks, which structure the backbone for sustainability, include educational elements and leadership strategies for a thriving future. One framework consists of elements for system-thinking to achieve sustainability (Fullan, 2005).  System-thinking framework embraces collaboration, communication and transparency as mandatory elements for an organization to sustain. The second framework includes transformational leadership practices encouraging collaboration for building an effective school system (Kouzes and Pozner, 2007).  Transformational framework includes leadership qualities as: visibility, accessibility, trust, diversity, creativity, and the ability to build leaders for the future.

Educational elements emerge from a successful Catholic school such as: encouraging collaboration, consistent communication, strong educational programs, creative financial plans and methods, accepting diversity, instilling Catholic identity, displaying administrative support and trust, and providing a safe environment.

Administrative support and trust is an example of an educational component that emerges as a major influence for school sustainability.  Successful leadership strategies demonstrating administrative trust and support displays administration as: accessible and approachable to the school community, visible at school events, compassionate to the needs of the school community, consistent and collaborative with decision-making and advocates strong hiring practices for selecting and placing school personnel in appropriate positions.  More specifically, an employee being hired in the area of marketing and recruiting possesses strong communicative qualities to a diverse population or an employee responsible for a department with specialized skills in technology is qualified and skilled to effectively present or teach technology to all members of the school community.

However, administrative trust and support needs time to develop.  Therefore, during any leadership change or for introducing new concepts, policies or procedures: time must be given. School leaders and stakeholders need time to trust and absorb new ideas from each other. There may be resistance at first, but with time, understanding and genuine collaborative input, all stakeholders will eventually become part of the process and decrease resistance for the change.

Fullan, M. (2005, February). Resiliency and sustainability. The School Administrator, 62(2), 16-18. Retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/publications/sa/2001_06/cotents_006.htm

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. doi:10.15365.joce,190315016