Teachers, students soar into new school year

A group of principals and teachers attending a pilot program for leadership formation in the diocese had positive remarks about the sessions.

Most said they enjoyed being able to collaborate and share with their colleagues, and appreciated hearing real-life lessons garnered from true experiences in the school trenches.

One participant said she found the stories about being a principal refreshing and was grateful for “the honesty about the difficulty of the job.”

The leadership formation program, which kicked off in July, is part of the diocesan Office of Education’s comprehensive school plan designed to revitalize and strengthen Catholic schools.

Sandra Leatherwood, superintendent of Catholic schools, said the purpose is for the diocese to “grow” their own principals and assistant principals so they have a pool of leaders to choose from rather than having to search nationwide.

This was one of the first goals established under the category of governance and leadership in the revitalization plan. School officials said they believe it will be quite successful, noting that 12 of the current principals are former teachers from Catholic schools in the state.

In July, a group of presenters from Loyola in Chicago spoke to about 25 people on a variety of topics, including Catholic identity, leadership reflection tools, and national standards in education.

Leatherwood said the group contained 14 prospective leaders, all of whom are currently teaching in Catholic schools, plus nine first-year principals and three second-year principals.

The teachers will attend five more leadership sessions throughout the academic year as they learn the ins-and-outs of being a principal, including how to interact with students and parents.

As for the new principals, Leatherwood said they will attend the regularly scheduled principal meetings but will also be part of special break-out sessions.

The speakers lined up for these sessions are based on the questions that new principals most often ask, and on the departments they frequently turn to for support.

After attending leadership training, the teachers will move to the second phase, which is mentoring and coaching.

Other goals that are currently on the table for the revitalization plan include:

* Catholic identity. A focus group of pastors was created, led by Fathers Anthony Droze and Javier Heredia, to help fully integrate parishes and schools.

* Academic excellence. Schools will move to MAP standardized testing in 2017-2018, which is conducted three times a year instead of just once and is more effective in evaluating student progress.

* Operational vitality. A marketing strategy will be implemented to increase enrollment in elementary schools in the diocese. The plan will be presented in October.

Top photo, Miscellany/Keith Jacobs: Eoghan Canales listens to his instructor, Melissa Bleakney, during the opening day of kindergarten class at St. Michael School in Murrells Inlet on Aug. 21.

All photos, Miscellany/Keith Jacobs: Father Edward Fitzgerald, pastor of St. Michael Church, high-fives students as they enter the building on the first day of school Aug. 21.


Students at St. Michael gather for prayer Aug. 21, which was also the day of the solar eclipse. Dismissal was at noon so everyone could watch the event.


A line of new students learns the ropes on the first day of school at St. Michael.