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OCS encourages teachers to be future principals

Now in its fourth year, the Aspiring Leadership Cohort program that the Office of Catholic Schools has developed to encourage teachers to become future administrators is going strong.

On Nov. 13, more than 50 teachers and administrators attended a workshop to explore this possibility.

“You, through your Catholic faith, are in a position to make a school be everything it can be,” said Dr. Jan Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The educators heard from administrators at Our Lady of Holy Cross College (OLHCC) and Xavier University of Louisiana who spoke about their master’s degree programs in administration, educational leadership and other concentrations, their tuition structure and the timeline for earning the degrees.

A panel of current Catholic school administrators also discussed the day-to-day tasks of a principal. The panelists included Patience Clasen of St. Andrew the Apostle in New Orleans; Mike Buras of Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell; Sister of the Holy Family Jennie Jones of St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans and Paige Bennett of St. Angela Merici in Metairie.

Clasen, in her second year as St. Andrew the Apostle principal, said she quickly put her degree into practice having served previously as curriculum coordinator at the school. She earned her master’s degree in educational leadership in 2014 from Our Lady of Holy Cross College.

“The in-class conversations led by former and current principals brought experience to each course,” she said. “They shared their real-world experience in the classroom. Those conversations led to successful points.”

Building future leaders
To make it easier for teachers to afford the tuition to obtain a master’s degree, the Office of Catholic Schools worked with the two Catholic colleges on offering reduced tuition. The Office of Catholic Schools also contributes $100 per course toward tuition for teachers.

“I’ve always wanted to get my master’s, and clearly the financial support (from the colleges and the Office of Catholic Schools) made it easier,” Clasen said. “I had two kids in Catholic education, and an additional degree on top of that wasn’t easy (financially).”

At Xavier University, the master of administrative leadership is a 36-hour program that can be completed in 2 1/2 years. Dr. Renee Akbar, chairwoman of Xavier’s division of education and counseling, suggested that teachers take two classes a semester.

“We encourage you to take your time in going through the program to be successful,” she said. At the end of the 36 hours, teachers are certified and then take the principal’s test.

At Xavier University, Akbar said the emphasis is on performance. Students receive much field experience by completing administrative task modules in every course. She invited teachers to reach out to others to become educators. Xavier offers 25 percent off its tuition in this program.

“Encourage students in your schools to become teachers,” Akbar said.     

Cleveland Hill, OLHCC’s coordinator of the educational leadership program, also asked the teachers present to encourage their colleagues or anyone they know who has a knack with children to become teachers. He mentioned several professionals who left successful careers to gain teacher certification through OLHCC.

Our Lady of Holy Cross College and Xavier work with people in other professions and teachers with master’s degrees (who are not certified in educational leadership) to gain the needed hours for certification.

OLHCC’s master’s program is discounted 50 percent and can be completed in six semesters. Equal emphasis is put on content and performance.

“We want to prepare you for the things you need to know (content) and prepare you for what you need to do (performance),” Hill said. “The big issue is you learn from experience and carry it on in practice every day. We empower teachers to take the lead to be leaders in the school.”

Both schools offer financial aid in addition to reduced tuition for Catholic school teachers who are in graduate school earning their master’s. Doctorate degrees are not discounted but are offered at either university.

Lancaster said the number of teachers interested in pursuing an advanced degree has doubled from the time she first introduced the program in 2012. She knows of at least five people who are now in education administrative positions in the archdiocese.

“I wish you the best of luck and hope you consider it,” Ingrid Fields, OCS associate superintendent, told the teachers when speaking about her own experience of gaining an advanced degree. “The education and the support are worth your time and money.”

Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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