Tag: Leadership

Your First Year as a Catholic School Leader

As you work your way through a first year as a Catholic School Leader, you may want to consider the following:



Listening is especially important advice for first-time principals or for principals who are new to a school. It is important for any new administrator to gather input from those who have been on staff at the school for some time.  Ask [the staff] about what is working in the school and what is not. Meet with people individually, talk with them, get some insight and don’t try to change everything overnight.

Let the school’s faculty know up front that you intend to spend some time assessing the situation. Get in and learn how the school works before making any major changes. Some of the things you think would never work may be great ideas that work for that school.

Remember the school ran OK before you got there, and it will run OK after you leave. Many individuals guide the ship. Find them and solicit their thoughts. Those individuals include the school custodian, the secretary, the bus driver, the pastor, and even the kid who’s always in your office for being in trouble.

Spend most of your time listening to staff, students, and parents.  Get concerns out in the open, and be as accessible as possible. Save paperwork until the end of the day when things have quieted down so that you can be visible in classrooms and throughout the school. Make it a priority to visit classrooms every day. It’s amazing how much information you can gather just by being out of your office and approachable.



Don’t forget that there’s a wealth of talent around you. The Holy Spirit didn’t give you all of the wisdom. We each got just a piece of the wisdom and we are therefore larger than the sum of our parts. Staff members who are well known in the community might request volunteers or donations for school events; those who are good organizers could be tapped to organize an after-school parent activity, a Family Math Night, a carnival, or an ice-cream social. Good Principals find out what people’s talents are and put them to work for the good of the children and the school. Even disgruntled employees have talents, and approaching them for their help just might turn them around. Everyone loves to feel important and needed.

Keep the personal in personnel. Remember at all times that you are dealing with people and feelings.  Support your staff. Teaching is hard work.

Don’t try to do it all yourself.  God is in community – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If he can’t do it alone what would make any of us think we can .Give the teachers everything you can to help them do their job; then get out of the way and let them do it. Remember, it’s better to give than to receive. Give them compliments. Share victories. Give them credit.



A true mentor is not just someone assigned.  The mentor is there when needed to discuss issues, offer advice, bounce ideas, and help you with making decisions.

Be sure to educate the clergy in your service area to the mission, vision and goals of the school. Ask the pastors in your service area  – how you can better serve them. I believe the Church has a mission and therefore we have schools. You are about the mission of the Church – your success – is the success of the Church.

Think about the characteristics of your principalship and how you want your tenure at the helm to be described. Write it down.  Keep it where you can see it every day, on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, for example. Read it every day, then go do it!

Read the book, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber. It was recommended to me and one help book I always recommend to parents, teachers, and administrators.

Make sure that time with God and your family is listed as an important priority appointment on your calendar. Don’t let a day pass where you ignore yourself, your prayer life and your family. If you fail to feed your soul you won’t be able to feed the teachers or your family.



Every principal knows it, but some forget it as they get caught up at their desk. It is impossible to lead the spiritual and academic formation of children from your desk.  Ask yourself am I spending my time in the best interest of student formation.

Most of the successful Catholic school principals I know had their character stretched early in their tenure as a principal.. There will be days you probably will question everything about yourself and your abilities. This is normal and it has the wonderful potential of causing tremendous personal growth.

And while you will feel days of joy and the rewards will be great, you will also feel days of despair and times you will be overwhelmed. In those dark hours give it over to Jesus. You are not alone – he is always with you as you are laboring together as partners in HIS Father’s business.

May the blessed Mother watch over you and your school community throughout the days and nights of the 2019-2020 school year. Please be assured of my prayers for you, your family, faculty, school parents and students.


Steven Virgadamo is an educator and school administrator filled with a missionary zeal for contributing to education reform. Currently, he serves as the Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York and he encourages every Catholic School Leader to consider the tips he offers above.

Steven Virgadamo Joins Firm Full-Time

Larry Furey, Founder of Partners in Mission, is pleased to announce that Steven Virgadamo has joined the firm on a full-time basis. 


“Partners in Mission is widely recognized as the leading counsel to our Steve Virgadamonation’s Catholic schools in areas of advancement, enrollment management and leadership,” Larry said. “As our nation-wide partnerships with Catholic schools, dioceses and religious communities further expand, we continue to grow our practice with accomplished and proven full-time practitioners like Steven to meet the mission-critical needs of our school communities. To my knowledge, there isn’t an active advocate for Catholic education who has been on more Catholic school or diocesan campuses than Steven Virgadamo. With Steven’s expanded role and full-time commitment, Catholic schools, as well as all areas of our practice, will benefit from his subject matter expertise, professional network, and extensive experience in directing robust Catholic school leadership formation programs.”


Steven’s career spans 30-plus years in partnering with more than 6,000 Catholic schools in over 120 dioceses in the United States. Steve has formed and mentored school leaders while serving as the Vice President of Catholic School Management and as an Associate Director at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Program. Over the past five years as an Associate Superintendent of Schools in the Archdiocese of New York, he managed and directed over 150 regional and national searches for Catholic elementary and secondary school leaders. As the Executive Director of the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy and in conjunction with Fordham University, St. John’s University, and the University of Notre Dame’s ACE, he designed and implemented a nationally recognized program for aspiring Catholic school leaders. In 2018, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) awarded Steven, the John F. Meyers, Presidents Award and named him one of the most influential people in Catholic education over the past 25 years.


As Steven transitions to his full-time role at Partners in Mission, he will continue to partner with schools and dioceses in areas of Strategic Planning, Operations Planning, Administrative Retreats, Board Formation, and Professional Development; as well as continue to provide advancement counsel. In addition, he also will formally join the School Leadership Search Solutions division of Partners in Mission. For years, Steven has actively supported the belief that the single most distinguishing factor between a successful Catholic school and a struggling one is leadership. He has dedicated his career to identifying, recruiting and most importantly counseling Superintendents, School Presidents, School Leaders, Advancement Directors, Enrollment Mangers and other key members of a school management team.


About Partners in Mission

Partners in Mission is a full-service consulting and professional education firm focused exclusively on developing excellence in Catholic school advancement and leadership. Our dedicated team of professionals partner with clients to advance their missions by providing comprehensive and effective solutions to address the challenges they face every day.

About Partners in Mission School Leadership Search Solutions

Partners in Mission School Leadership Search Solutions is the retained search division of Partners in Mission, the nation’s leading full-service consulting firm focused exclusively on developing excellence in Catholic school advancement and leadership. As partners with religious and school communities, boards and dioceses, our team of dedicated search consultants have identified and secured mission-driven professionals to serve in a myriad of diverse Catholic school and diocesan leadership positions from Massachusetts to Hawaii.

Customer Service in Catholic Education

Customer experience is one of the hottest buzzwords in Catholic education these days. Schools are retaining national consultants such as Partners in Mission, Inc and committing resources into building a strong customer experience. In many parts of the country Catholic schools are already competing more based on the customer experience versus price or curriculum. After all, a school is a school is a school, and all elementary schools in essence offer the same education adhering to both state and national standards.

So, what is left then to set the school apart but the customer experience. Parents need to be able to rationalize the school purchase decision and the customer experience is the key to happy satisfied parents who are willing to serve as good will ambassadors for your school.

Outside of the education business, we are seeing research that companies that invest in customer experience boast a higher stock price. That said, more companies are also taking customer experience seriously.

The truth is that in the business of Catholic education, there are a many ways to care for and interact with parents to create a positive customer experience.

Customer service is the advice or assistance a school leadership and staff gives to parents.

The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, and it usually comes by answering questions – often before they need to be asked.  Some schools offer Kindergarten readiness testing for parents and parenting workshops open to parents of both enrolled students and parents with children enrolled elsewhere who members of Catholic parishes. This strategy can be viewed as a customer service gesture on behalf of the parish leadership as well.

Customer care means how well parents are taken care of while they interact with school leadership and staff.

A term used less often is customer care, which is how well customers are taken care of while they interact with the school leaders, faculty, and staff and yes even the custodial staff. Customer care in Catholic education is actually caring for parents, listening to their needs, and finding the right solution – even if it means sometimes helping them find a neighboring Catholic school more prepared to meet their needs.  In many instances, customer care moves one step beyond basic customer service by building an emotional connection and making parents feel like a member of the community. I refer to this as the Starbucks experience. Starbucks doesn’t really sell coffee but rather the experience of community.

Customer experience is the total journey of parent’s interactions with a school.

Customer experience is the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching school options, to touring a campus, applying, admission notification, registration, enrollment, and the day to day interactions each day of the school year with EVERY member of the school staff. with to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards. Customer experience measures how customers feel about a company overall and includes the emotional, physical, psychological connection parents as a consumer have with the school.  Customer care for school parents isn’t a one-off interaction, but rather includes the entire lifecycle and every touch point a parent has with the school.

If these three concepts all sound similar, it’s because they all contribute to a school delivering on its promises and building loyal, satisfied parents and alumni. Customer experience is the overarching sum of all interactions, and customer service and customer care are pieces of that puzzle.

Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service. However, customer service and customer care often fall under the responsibility of the school leadership. To be effective, everyone in the organization should be invested in customer experience.

Customer experience is more than just a buzzword—it should be at the heart of everything a Catholic school does. By including customer service and customer care, Catholic school leaders can exceed expectations and delight parents.