Winter 2016

Onward Leaders Blog: Cohort 1

Life in a Catholic elementary school shifts gears in November as the season of Advent, along with its preparations, liturgies and wakeful anticipation are felt throughout the parish school. December is a quick month and the joy of Christmas carries us to Christmas Vacation.  We return in January to preparations for Catholic Schools Week and Open Houses. It isn’t surprising then that February and March are often a time of low morale with faculty, staff and parents and students. Everyone is a little tired. Lead Learners at Catholic schools would be wise to listen to the soothsayer in Julius Caesar. “Beware the Ides of March” or may find themselves shocked by small eruptions of emotion, grievances and rumblings that were lost in the cacophony of activity in November, December and January.    If a leader can view these months as part of the natural rhythms of a school year, they can anticipate this lull and take extra care to be present for the community. This is not a time to disappear into your office or extend your wait time for responding to concerns, but to act promptly, practice patience and listen actively. Simple, this is not, as our very own energy levels may be depleted and we may find ourselves discouraged and questioning our own abilities. Our faith can give us great comfort during these often dark days of the year.  Daily prayer, a conversation with a trusted colleague and treating everyone with an intentional kindness (that may feel insincere- do it anyway), will often be the soothing balm necessary to help your community navigate their way to the joy of Easter.

The Onward Leaders have developed their roles as Faith Leader during these months and the insights from their reflections show a deep understanding of that role.


Meg Samaniego, Director

The development of new religion standards has been a lengthy, but meaningful process to have been a part of. This development has involved creating religion standards that will be rolled out to all schools within the next few months. This development is directly linked to faith and excellence within the entire Diocese of Los Angeles.  Each time I am able to work with the wonderful team we have, I feel honored and blessed to be there. I have learned so much about this process and my own faith. I have appreciated each moment and am eager to see the final product.

Exposing students to joyful and happily engaged Catholics is a wonderful thing – regardless of vocation.

Communication between school community members and parents is key. Fostering a positive relationship ensures that parents know we value their partnership and support the well-being/success of their child.

Behavioral supports are key part of ensuring excellence and expressing our Catholic faith.

We must interact with each individual with compassion, understanding, and love. Getting to know each child beyond their academic needs is part of our role as Catholic educators to support their well-being and growth regardless of outside factors.

As a principal, you are the leader of all students at the school. With disciplinary matters it’s important to listen, ask questions, and know the students. This would include putting on the hats of being pastoral as well as making the appropriate choices in the best interest of the child and their education.

The effective use of faculty meeting time should always keep student learning at the forefront. What we do as educators is for our students and therefore making that connection and bringing meaning to our work is key.

Building capacity through professional development and faculty discussion is directly linked to growing as a staff and school community. Especially when that discussion involves how that can reflect the Catholic nature of the school.

Leading an opening prayer with parents was a good opportunity for me to participate in inviting them to pray as a school community.  It also challenged me to elaborate on speaking about those topics on Spanish.

It’s important for principals to be involved in the classrooms “situational awareness” and understand how classes function (class culture).

Family Advent Night: The children and families were able to participate in the activities in collaboration with one another to learn and review their knowledge of the Christmas story and the Advent season. In the feedback collected from the survey, the families replied that they all learned something new and very much enjoyed the evening!

Leading a Communion Service: The community celebration (especially during Advent) is a wonderful way to live and teach our faith.

I created an outline and facilitated the first ever, grade level retreat for the 5th grade class. We intend to do this for all classes, but started with 5th grade because they have been having bullying issues. Retreats allow students to spend some time away from the normal day and focus on faith, fellowship and fun.

The Principal is the leader of the school and helps build community in a way to facilitate student growth, both personal and academic. These facilitating these parent, student, teacher and administrator conferences were an opportunity for the teacher and parent(s) (and student) to come together to grow.