Saturday morning. I'm sitting in a classroom with about 20 teachers participating in a day of leadership discernment. This is an event we hold every other year to try to discover and encourage young (and not so young) people who might be interested in becoming principals of Catholic elementary and high schools.
When I had my first Principals' Meeting after becoming superintendent I looked around the room and had two realizations. The first was the obvious one, “I have no idea what I'm doing.” The second was, “Oh my gosh, this is a very mature group.” On one hand this made me happy that there was so much experience in the room; however, I also asked, “Who's going to take over for all of these people when they retire?” and more importantly, “Who's going to take over for me someday?”
Among the less discussed crises facing Catholic schools beyond the financial crisis and the enrollment crisis is the leadership crisis. Our principals are aging, and there is not a clear pipeline of younger people to take their place. The position of vice principal, always an important training post, has been eliminated by financial constraints on many campus. Beyond that fewer and fewer teachers are willing to face the challenges of school leadership.
It is incredibly hard to be a principal. Trying to create a learning environment that meets the needs of all students in times of changing technology and challenges to traditional subjects and methods is impossible. Trying to do this while creating a Catholic environment for children and families of all stripes of religious participation and belief is impossible. Catering to the increasingly unrealistic needs and demands of a changing parent population is impossible. Curbing tides of eroding enrollment and budget shortfalls is impossible. And for all of these impossible tasks the yearly pay equals roughly what Angelina Jolie makes for one arched eyebrow.
Yet here in this room are 20 people still interested in looking beyond the boundaries of the classroom and exploring the possibility of leadership. I'm certain their motivations (and pathologies) are varied, but I can't help but feel touched and greatful to see these signs of hope.
All I can say is, “God bless them all.” And as always, I welcome your comments.
Image: 'Candles 'http://www.flickr.com/photos/35660391@N08/4245733960 Found on flickrcc.net