Through the years, I have watched the role of the leader in a Catholic school evolve. In the beginning, leaders were managers, who made decisions and told others what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
Today, thankfully, leadership is about collaborating and working toward a common goal. In my 50 years of working in Catholic education, I have learned that when leaders bring people together and ask them to assist in reaching a goal that they are happy to share their own wealth of knowledge and skills. The diversity of the group strengthens the process and leads to better decisions.
In the end the winners of this collaborative process are the children we serve. Good leadership and good decisions bring about the change needed to make our students successful inside and outside of the classroom. Over the years I’ve seen Catholic education free children from the limitations of every type of poverty -- material or spiritual. In addition to helping children succeed academically, we teach them that it is Christ who gives meaning to their lives. From that simple truth students learn to respect the dignity of every single person. We can’t make real progress as a society or have justice without this.
Creating an environment of collaboration and respect has led the schools in Archdiocese of Indianapolis to much success. By working with school leaders, we have earned more Blue Ribbons for excellence from the U.S. Department of Education than any other diocese in the country. By developing partnerships with higher education institutions we have been able to assist our teachers in earning advanced degrees and in providing exemplary professional development opportunities. Our work with the National Catholic Educational Association has enabled us to learn from other leaders in Catholic education across the country and to emulate their best practices.
Leadership in our Catholic schools comes in many different forms. Yet, at the heart of it is our primary mission of bringing others to Christ. We set a vision for our schools, provide a model of hope and consistency and work together to be the best we can be. We are servants to each other, and most importantly servants of God.
Annette “Mickey” Lentz has served the archdiocese as a teacher, principal, and administrator in the Office of Catholic Education for 50 years. Since 2009, she has served the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as chancellor.