A Study in Experience

Sr. M. Paul McCaughey

Sr. M. Paul McCaughey, Professional Lecturer in the DePaul College of Education Department of Leadership, Language, and Curriculum, knows a few things about the challenges facing administrators today. As the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago from 2008 until 2015, she led 207 elementary schools with more than 60,000 students. During difficult times that saw a nationwide economic crisis and demographic shifts, Sr. M. Paul worked to strengthen the Catholic school system financially, academically, and spiritually. This experience, requiring a creative vision to look beyond the models of the past, gave her a unique insight into the demands on modern-day school administrators. 

Sr. M Paul and students
“The pressures of administrators have never been more intense,” she states. Gone are the days when teachers would simply advance to school or district administration after serving in the classroom. They have to have a knowledge of the business of running a school. “Administrators are called to contend with a large amount of paperwork. Principals, especially, are required to deal with multiple stakeholders. It is essential to have a fiscal and public relations background to act as a negotiator for resources. Donors want to see you and hear your strategic plan. At the same time, you still need to cultivate relationships with your teachers, parents, and students. Learning to use distributed leadership and finding the right school team is daunting, even as we continue to acknowledge the need for real leadership at the top.”

In addition to her classroom duties at DePaul, Sr. M. Paul continues to work to advance education around the country. She works with the College of Education Office of Innovative Professional Learning to provide professional development to schools. She also serves as a consultant to schools in the Archdiocese of Boston and works as a retreat and conference speaker. “Experience needs to be put to work. I have been deeply blessed in the professional and educational opportunities I have had in school and “district” administration, in committee work and contacts across the country. Being available to serve a broad spectrum of needs is exciting, challenging and satisfying.” 

Sr. M Paul
A passionate supporter of school choice, Sr. M. Paul can also be found urging city and state legislators to consider bringing school choice to Illinois. Citing the success in Florida, Sr. M. Paul supports a “just and transparent” scholarship program. Under such a program, participating families would be awarded the funds typically expended by a school district in the form of a scholarship to pay partial or full tuition for their child’s private school, including both religious and non-religious options. “It would give parents the option to execute their right as the primary decision maker in their child’s life.”

All of these varied activities bring a reality to what she teaches in the classroom. “Being in classrooms, working with administrators, staying in touch with the research and the challenges brings the real into graduate teaching. Our DePaul students deserve varied perspectives and deep reflection on their own praxis rooted in data and ethics.”

Interested in becoming a school administrator? The MA or MEd in Educational Leadership offers a powerful, discipline-based curriculum with a problem-solving orientation that prepares effective and principled decision-makers. 

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