Canon law recognizes the pastor as the chief educational officer (CEO) of the parish school. However, recent studies demonstrate that seminaries do not prepare seminarians for work in or leadership of Catholic schools, and recent scholarship also demonstrates that an increasing number of seminarians lack the desire to lead a parish school. Our research study examined the post-seminary preparation of priests for leadership of parish schools. We also explored alternative governance models for Catholic schools. We conducted structured interviews with 10 national leaders to explore these two areas of interest. Our findings demonstrate that preparation of newly ordained and veteran priests for parish school leadership is woefully inadequate. Interviewees suggested that the pastor/principal relationship and school finance are two important topics that should be addressed in best practice preparation programs for school leaders. All 10 interviewees had difficulty imagining alternative governance models for schools in which the pastor would not serve as the CEO, but at the same time, some of the participants could see potential benefits of alternative governance models. Based on the findings of our study, we recommend that: (1) seminary programs include an initial introduction to the importance of Catholic schools for evangelization; (2) a new national model for preparing young and veteran priests for school leadership be developed and implemented; (3) existing best practices for alternative governance models be collated and promulgated; and (4) church leaders and stakeholders determine the best governance models for their schools and then prepare the appropriate people for leadership roles accordingly.
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Simonds, T. A., Cook, T., Engel, M., Fussell, R. D., Hearn, J., & Meyer, J. (2021). Preparing Priests to Lead Parish Schools: Concerns and Recommendations. Journal of Catholic Education, 24 (1). http://dx.doi.org/10.15365/joce.2401072021