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Greeley Center Thought Leader on Excellence and Equity


Carrying a lightness of spirit that matches their seriousness of purpose, Drs. Michelle Lia and Debra Sullivan were recently named co-directors of the Greeley Center and are eager to double down on one of the Center’s guiding beliefs: mission-driven, effective teachers and administrators are critical factors in excellent, equitable Catholic schools.  Both are delighted to be taking the reins as COVID and a renewed focus on equality in the US has put Catholic schools in a unique position to deliver on their mission as never before. 

The Greeley Center’s Leading With Hope gave Catholic schools across the country a guide for all the considerations around reopening this fall. It was incredibly well received and helpful for every diocese that walked through the steps to consider. That was Phase 1. Phase 2 had Greeley providing instructional videos on how to implement both mandated and suggested changes, which they rolled out in waves throughout the summer and early fall. What the Greeley Center staff found, after Leading With Hope and instructional videos had been out there for a while, was that people were totally overwhelmed, with most doing double jobs. “It wasn’t at all uncommon to find a principal helping a custodian remove all the soft furnishings from each classroom and lay down the 6 foot circular markers on the floor,” said Sullivan. “Where in the world were people going to find the time for professional development under those circumstances? We knew our next logical move was to provide that for them, in a format that respected their time and was as practical as humanly possible. And so we created Take Care of Yourself Ed Camps (ed camps).”

Ed camps are a Zoom-based webinar that allows for sharing both frustrations and best practices. It’s not a structured day—participants come together and build it as a group.  Participants break out in grade and job bands to they are comparing notes peer-to-peer. “We just ask that each person brings one idea that is working for them this year, and then one question or challenge they could use group input on,” said Sullivan. The first two ed camps had up to 83 participants and garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback.

What People Are Saying About Ed Camps
Thanks so much for the opportunity to have meaningful discourse!! It was so appreciated! Please keep me abreast of additional opportunities! This was awesome. I loved being able to discuss challenges and successes and share ideas! [The best part was] being able to have an authentic and stress-free dialogue with colleagues + sharing reading strategies during pandemic

Another area in which the Greeley Center is serving as a leader is around the notion of inclusion and equity in Catholic schools.  “Inclusion is a strategic priority for the Greeley Center,” said Lia. “It has been since the founding of the center, back when we were called The Center for Catholic School Effectiveness. Everyone at the Center has worked at a Catholic school in some capacity, so we get the practical aspects of being in a Catholic school, where resources and budgets usually aren’t the same as they are at the local public school. But we also know that as Catholics, we value the dignity of every human life, people who are created in the image of God. And that has to flow through to our schools and our ability to welcome and accommodate every student.” Sullivan quickly agreed, adding, “We’re working hard to help build that capacity within various dioceses, from the instructional level through behavioral interventions to the curriculum and beyond. We know that both teachers and administrators need a deep, full toolbox of strategies to meet students where they are and help them move and grow.  Our goal is to reach a point where it’s simply known that this is how we do business—you don’t need to seek outside resources and you don’t need to counsel kids out to the public schools. If this structure isn’t in place, what does that say about the dignity of every human life? If we’re going to be who we say we are, we need to stand up for inclusion and equity, and that has to flow through to policy and practice.”

“These are hard questions to ask and be asked,” said Lia. “But by answering them honestly, we can only get better. It’s about educating everybody around the fact that this is what we’re called to do and no one is getting shortchanged—everyone is getting top quality Catholic education.”