Striving for Balance, Steadfast in Faith

The Notre Dame Study of U.S. Catholic Elementary School Principals

Ronald J. Nuzzi, University of Notre Dame
Anthony C. Holter, University of Notre Dame
James M. Frabutt, University of Notre Dame

Published 2012

Catholic elementary school principals, speaking out in a major nationwide survey, report faithful commitments alongside acute challenges in the operation of their schools, and they identify financial management, marketing, Catholic identity, enrollment management and long-range planning as their schools’ top five areas of need.

The study, completed by the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education and its Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, is a rare, comprehensive glimpse of these principals’ views on what they need in order to do their jobs better and how they describe the state of Catholic education today. “It is difficult to read the responses of Catholic school principals in this study and not sense both their commitment to this ministry and the overwhelming responsibilities that are associated with it,” say the authors of “Leadership Speaks: A National Survey of Catholic Primary School Principals.” They paint a picture of many principals as faith-filled individuals confronting unusually challenging expectations, worthy of new forms of support, such as their own national association.

The study provides enormous amounts of data describing today’s Catholic school principals and outlining their views, and the authors conclude with four recommendations:

1.) Develop “new models of governance for Catholic elementary schools” that shift the panoply of principal responsibilities “into a more manageable and realistic position description.”

2.) “Develop a program of ongoing professional development and renewal for principals” that addresses their needs, both professional and personal.

3.) Organize a national association of Catholic school principals as a means “to give voice to their leadership concerns at every level and to promote advocacy for Catholic schools at the national level.”

4.) “Convene multiple groups of national and international stakeholders to advance the understanding of Catholic schools as instruments of the new evangelization.”

Executive Summary. Introduction. Method. Quantitative Findings. Qualitative Findings. Summary of Major Findings. Discussion and Recommendations. References. Tables. Figures. Appendix – Survey.