February 2017

Onward Leaders Blog: Cohort 1

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, WCEA-WASC season begins in February, and the Onward Leaders formed a visiting committee for a school in one of the poorest areas of Los Angeles.  What they found at this school inspired and humbled each of these future leaders. Beginning with the principal, a quiet dignity permeated the school. The school did not have a lot of bells and whistles, but the steadiness of the faculty and staff in their laser focus on student learning and faith formation was profound.   As one Onward Leader reflected:

This visit was incredible. After serving on two teams, I know that both schools did a wonderful job with their self-study, but there was something very special and very honest about this school. They really did take an honest look at their own practices and were very transparent in which ways they needed to grow. I have always understood the self-study process in theory, but this visit made me truly understand how it should work. I can see how when it is done properly, it will really benefit the students.

The words transparent and honest are often lost in the “show” schools put on for the WCEA- WASC Visiting Team.  Unless our everyday actions consistently reflect the value that we have in each student and their growth, our self-study becomes, “full of edu-babble sound and fury signifying nothing.”  Authentic narratives that reveal where our school actually is, our failings and our successes, based on measurable data allow the visiting team to see the real stuff- the intentional everyday moves that create a culture of learning. It is in the quiet daily moments of interaction, the language we use with each other and the students and parents that reveal who we are as a Catholic school and how willing we are to reinvent ourselves to serve the students in front of us in this moment.

Several of the Onward Leaders described witnessing this authenticity from their recent WASC Visit.

Being able to visit other Catholic school communities is a true gift, especially reflecting upon our visit to our school last week. We were welcomed with an outpouring of hospitality and warmth by the students, staff, teachers, and parents. At the school we were able to observe each of the three pillars (Faith, Excellence and Stewardship) whether it was walking through the classrooms, speaking with the shareholders, or in reading through the document. We felt Catholic values embedded in the community, teachers and students working towards excellence, and a true sense of stewardship in opening their doors to all who want a catholic education for their child.

We were able to observe and validate the many efforts that the school has worked on and put in place to create a school culture with a strong Catholic identity, focused on academic excellence, and continuous growth.

The goals the school identified were all focused on improving student learning for all students. During our visit and discussion with shareholders, it was so clear that the school’s driver for success is  the students they serve.

Onward Leaders also reflected on the collaboration involved in preparing for the visit and how it enriched their professional growth by studying a school intently with colleagues.  Organizing their time efficiently, allowed them to spend their time watching the learning in the classrooms, having meaningful conversations with faculty, parents and students and with each other in order to create a Visiting Report that reflected the school accurately.

It was such a great opportunity to be on a WASC team with the OL cohort and to be able to visit such a wonderful school that demonstrated commitment towards providing a faith-centered environment, and supporting the academic success of their students. Hearing from the parents about how grateful they are to all the faculty and staff for instilling values, keeping great communication, and creating a positive future centered environment for these students inspired me to do the same for my future school community.

The teachers and staff are committed to providing a school that is centered around the children and welcoming to all those who come through their doors. The teachers are fully supported by the principal, as well as the parents and students. The teachers and principal acknowledged how they will work together to continually improve their curriculum and teaching strategies for the high achievement of all students.

The WCEA-WASC Process is not an event.  It mirrors learning in many ways. It is a slow, reflective process that is ongoing.  There is never an “are we done, yet?” moment. We never get there. In that way it is a lot like being Christ-like, we are always in process.  Never done. Never quite there. Hopefully, this new group of Onward Leaders will take what they saw at this slow and steady school and realize that the WCEA-WASC Visit is just another three days in their ever evolving school and that every day matters just as much.  The learning happens between visits.

God Bless,

Meg Samaniego, Onward Leaders Director