A strong conviction in the value of Catholic education drove Richard Billups to pursue a leadership position. Billups was teaching at St. Jerome Elementary in Westchester when in 2006 he was offered the position of junior high school coordinator and vice principal. In assuming that role, he decided to return to LMU – where Billups had gone as both an undergraduate and a master's degree student at SOE – to pursue his M.A. in Catholic School Administration through the Catholic School Leadership Academy. After earning his degree, Billups began a new position as assistant principal/dean of studies at St. Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica.

"The Catholic School Leadership Academy gave me a great appreciation for what it means to be a Catholic educator and the tools that a Catholic school leader needs," Billups says. "It starts with understanding the mission of Catholic social teachings as well as the educational mission of the individual school, and making sure that's communicated clearly to the students and the larger school community. We learned that to be a leader at a Catholic school you have to show the people you work with your own belief in Catholicity."

All Catholic School Leadership candidates are taught the importance of being able to make bold and often difficult decisions. They learn how to work effectively in bringing together diverse stakeholders and empowering teachers and staff. Given the SOE's emphasis on social justice, there is a special focus on ensuring success among children with special needs, and on the successful development of English language learners.

The uniqueness of a program that groups Catholic school leaders in a single cohort is an advantage, according to Franca Dell'Olio, director of SOE's Catholic School Leadership Academy. "Based on relevant research and real-life practical exemplars, we understand the vital role of leadership to a successful and viable Catholic school," she says. "But in the best of scenarios, leadership can sometimes feel like a lonely endeavor. Preparing Catholic school leaders in a cohort model provides a forum for a mission-driven community of learners to network, to support, and to inspire one another. Equally significant, it creates a setting in which elements of faith can be purposefully integrated with the learning process. This integration of faith and action inevitably transforms schools and communities."