By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
WEST DES MOINES — Iowa’s Catholic school administrators gathered last month at Dowling Catholic High School to network, learn and share their experiences working in Catholic schools.
Andy Craig, president of Assumption High School in Davenport, also serves on the conference committee.
He said administrators have many opportunities to attend conferences, but there aren’t many nearby that address administration of a Catholic school.
“Two years ago we tried this and it took off. So we planned to do it every other year.” He joined the committee at the invitation of Dan Ryan, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Sioux City. Ryan previously served as principal at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport and knew Craig.
“It was a great conference and a time to meet administrators from all over Iowa,” said Lee Morrison, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Davenport. The conference featured “very high caliber speakers that we could not afford for just our diocese alone.”
Bill Battistone, assistant principal at Regina Elementary in Iowa City, said he attended the conference because it is extremely important for him as an administrator to “continue to grow in my understanding of current education topics as it relates to Catholic education.” Such opportunities for Catholic school administrators to gather for professional development are relatively rare, he noted. “Most of our professional learning is done with public schools, so to be able to focus on issues as they directly relate to Catholic education was a very valuable experience.”
He attended sessions on Catholic Identity in schools, school choice and special education law as it relates to Catholic schools. “I think my favorite session was the discussion on school choice in Iowa. This is generally a misunderstood topic for many of our parents, staff and teachers. I was able to gain some clarity on the topic of school choice and how it will impact Catholic education in the future.”
Battistone said networking with administrators from different dioceses was “invaluable. There is always something that I can be doing better, and through conversations either during or after a session, or even during the lunch break, I got new ideas and new perspectives on how we can improve our own school. There is so much experience in Catholic education in Iowa, and I was just trying to take in as much as possible.”
Sharon Roling, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt, attended the conference for professional development and networking opportunities with other Catholic administrators in Iowa. “I found the conference very worthwhile because it was very specific to my role as a Catholic school administrator. While it was good to meet in a professional setting, it was also a fantastic opportunity to spend time in a social setting.”
One of her favorite sessions was the keynote presentation by Dale Hoyt, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn. “He reminded administrators of the attributes of Catholic school leadership which include: visible witnessing to faith, faithfulness to prayer, being a faith-filled servant and showing mercy in faith.
“Dr. Hoyt also reminded us of (retired) Pope Benedict XVI’s words, ‘Catholic schools are places to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.’ Reflecting on Dr. Hoyt’s words, I am both encouraged and challenged to continue mission-driven leadership at St. Joseph School by being a competent, passionate and transformative leader.”
Craig said all the sessions had value. “You hear things you can do better and hear what works well at some schools.” Networking with others can be one of the most valuable experiences at this conference, he noted. “It’s great to hear what others are doing and how to deal with certain situations.”