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Leading with Hope


“Honestly, it might have started as a way to manage our own anxiety,” said Dr. Michael Boyle, outgoing Director of the Greeley Center for Catholic Education. This brilliantly honest and human approach to the pandemic has led to the release of Leading With Hope, a robust discussion guide designed to help dioceses across the country navigate all the mandates around returning to school in a uniquely Catholic way. “As a team, we were having conversations around maintaining Catholic identity and the things that are central to our mission—community, support, and faith development. What does that look like when we have to consider physical space constraints, the need for social distancing, and the possibility of extended remote learning?”  

Mike’s entire team, comprised of former classroom teachers and building administrators with years of practical experience under their collective belts, came together in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, brainstorming what they believed to be key questions that had to be answered before any Catholic school could re-open. Humility was a key part of the mix, as Boyle acknowledged, “We aren’t the experts on schooling through a pandemic. But here’s the thing: no one is! We simply had the luxury of staff and time to think about the critical elements that need to be considered.” Covering five key domains—logistics & planning, creating & maintaining community, curriculum & instruction, promoting Catholic identity in remote spaces, and technology support, Leading with Hope provides a template for ensuring that meaningful education still happens no matter how it’s delivered, while ensuring that value-add of rigor and Catholic values remains strong enough to warrant parents paying tuition dollars against a backdrop of widespread COVID-related job losses and furloughs.  

As schools across the country are wrapping up their year and starting a summer of intense planning, dioceses across the country are singing the praises of Leading With Hope. Jean Spohn, Principal of St. Mary Elementary and Junior High School in Dixon, IL, shared a fairly common frustration, saying, “I felt bombarded with information that was varied and changed daily.  So, to receive the document Leading with Hope was finally a welcomed gift filled with encouragement.  I appreciate the road map and decided to create a leadership team to go through the process with me. A superintendent who shared off the record is also a fan. For those of us in small mission dioceses, it is truly incredible to be able to access information from organizations that are credible, are willing to share, and respect the mission of Catholic education, too.” That feeling was echoed by another midwestern principal: “Leading with Hope is exactly what we need as we plan for an uncertain start to the 2020-2021 school year.  I have been looking for answers to many of the questions this document addresses.  I am especially excited about the ideas regarding community and curriculum and instruction.  This gives us a framework for teacher development over the summer and other critical planning considerations.”  

Catholic school leaders will reach for their Bibles first, and as the summer wears on and states move in and out of the various phases of reopening, they will have Leading with Hope to reach for right after that.  It’s an invaluable tool for navigating a new educational world that’s just beginning to get mapped.