Catholic high school department chairs: Teachers, leaders, and promoters of Catholic identity

Sheila Bernadette Murphy, Fordham University


This qualitative study examined the role of eight high school department chairs at four Catholic high schools within the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The focus was Catholic high school department chairs’ leadership skills and perceived competence in exercising their skills. Also explored was how Catholic high school department chairs operate within their ambiguous role as both leader and teacher. Additionally, this study examined the role that the chairs play in promoting their schools’ Catholic identity and how competent they feel in doing so. Regarding leadership skills, the participants reported learning by experience. Most of them reported receiving little to no leadership training once they started in their position. They felt competent in their leadership roles because of their teaching background and subject area expertise. They felt that they were teachers first and that their leadership role was secondary. Regarding the Catholic identity of the schools, participants stated that they had a good understanding of it because of their own personal backgrounds, although little to no training on Catholic identity had been offered. It was important to them that their department members incorporated Catholic identity into their teaching, but they did not feel that it was necessarily their job to make sure this happened. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations are offered on how to help department chairs with their leadership skills as well as with how they can help promote the Catholic identity of their schools.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Murphy, Sheila Bernadette, "Catholic high school department chairs: Teachers, leaders, and promoters of Catholic identity" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10112664.