Educating Catholic School Leaders


Patrick Slattery

Educating Catholic School Leaders

National conference draws school officials to Creighton to discuss possible partnerships

“A pipeline of leadership,” is how Patrick Slattery, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Omaha, describes the growing number of potential principals in the institutions he oversees, thanks to a partnership with Creighton University.

Slattery was one of 20 Catholic school superintendents — representing 19 archdioceses or dioceses in 11 states — to attend the Partners for Catholic Leadership conference at Creighton in January.

The conference focused on how Creighton can help foster growth and innovation in educational leadership for Catholic schools — from preschool through high school — around the United States.

“Creighton gets it,” Slattery said. “They know the needs and the challenges Catholic schools face and they are continuously asking us, ‘What do you need? How can we help?’”

Creighton University is the preferred provider for leadership education among the schools of the Omaha Archdiocese, and has forged partnerships with school systems in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., and the Diocese of Manchester, N.H. The University is eager to make more connections around the country.

“It fills a national need,” said Tim Cook, Ph.D., a professor of education and director of Creighton’s online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership. “There are a lot of current and aspiring leaders of Catholic schools out there and this program ensures that training is there for them.”

Spurred by a 2005 directive from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that higher education do more to support K-12 Catholic education, Creighton became the first institution in the U.S. to offer an online Catholic School Leadership certificate.

Since then, students from all over the nation have enrolled at the University for this specialized curriculum. Some dioceses have started their own aspiring leadership academies to feed into Creighton and help produce more leaders.

Ron Fussell, assistant superintendent in the Diocese of Manchester, said the demands on today’s Catholic school leader require a wide breadth of skill and knowledge.

“The reality is we need leaders who can look at the big picture of enrollment, of accreditation, of ministry, and ensure that we will always be here,” Fussell said.

Dale Hoyt, an administrator in the Archdiocese of Hartford, who also teaches in Creighton’s Catholic Leadership program, said the University does an excellent job of preparing educators for these leadership roles.

“I couldn’t stop thinking how lucky we are that we’ve been able to make this partnership with Creighton and now extend it to more of our potential leaders in the archdiocese,” Hoyt said.

In Omaha, roughly 30 administrators or potential administrators have participated in Creighton’s Catholic Leadership program, as a separate certificate or as part of the master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

“I don’t worry about having zero candidates for principal jobs,” Slattery said. “It’s nice to have the peace of mind that you’ve got this pipeline of leadership.”

He added the University has also found other practical ways to partner with Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese.

With Creighton’s help, the archdiocese schools sponsored an event at which four Omaha corporate leaders with ties to Catholic education participated in a forum to talk about leadership. Foreign language students from the University have translated at parent-teacher conferences and a plan is in the works to provide Creighton nursing students with experience by having them aid in staffing much-needed school nurse positions.

Slattery urged conference participants to tell Creighton their needs and see where the University can provide solutions.

“The University is very willing to talk with any and all dioceses about what the needs are,” Slattery said. “Even if you’re 1,000 miles away, there are resources that can help and Creighton is willing to help.”