Thomas M. Suhy


More than ever, the challenges facing Catholic schools and Catholic school leaders require a “readiness to renew and adapt” (Vatican Council II, 1965). The skills and dispositions developed through applied action research—inquiry that is systematic, practitioner driven, and change oriented—are integral to the formation of teachers and leaders who will meet these challenges head on and strengthen Catholic schools for generations to come. The following action research project was conducted by a Catholic school leader who is a recent graduate of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame. The article you will read is one product of the comprehensive, four-course action research sequence that is a hallmark of the Remick Leadership Program, and is discussed in greater detail in the focus section overview. As you read on, you will notice that action research is highly contextualized—responsive to the specific needs in a particular school community—but also reflective of the broader educational research literature, and the rich traditions and teachings of our Catholic faith. We hope this action research inquiry informs your own practice, and inspires you to pursue mission driven and data informed leadership practices to bring about positive change in your own school or community.Like many urban Catholic schools, St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School in Dallas, Texas, is faced with many challenges: filling empty seats; supporting increased costs; and, possible closure. The small parish is primarily Latino, but few parish families are enrolled in the school. This action research project used in-depth interviews to examine parishioner-parent perspectives on the importance of Catholic education in the Latino community. Understanding the perspectives of parishioner-parents is a key step toward the ultimate goal of developing a marketing plan that attracts and engages Latino families. Participant interviews show that Latino parents believe Catholic schools are better than area Dallas Independent School District (DISD) schools in academics and preparing students for high school, and better than other religious education programs in teaching the Catholic faith. Ultimately, the study showed that these Latino parents strongly desire to send their children to Catholic schools.

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