Catholic Elementary School Success: Governance Lessons from a Qualitative Study of Five Advisory Boards in the Archdiocese of Baltimore

Author/Creator ORCID




Hood College Department of Education


Organizational Leadership

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States


Catholic schools have had a remarkable impact on education in the U.S., especially serving minority students in vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, there has been a significant decline in Catholic school enrollment beginning in the 1960s. In addition, the number of Catholic schools has steadily declined since the 1970s. This qualitative multi-site case study explores the lived experiences of Catholic elementary school principals and board chairs in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and reveals the impact of their perceptions of roles and responsibilities on school governance and success. Analysis of individual interviews, a survey, and observations revealed: (1) school boards provide useful advice and support to principals; (2) while formal roles are clear, boards can struggle with identifying a compelling purpose; (3) differences exist between common perceptions of a board’s governance role and the reality of decision-making; and (4) the most valued board interactions are described in terms of a coaching skills/approach to leadership. Implications of these findings are critical to ensuring that the Catholic elementary school boards of the future have the leadership models, tools, and training needed to make sound decisions crucial to the success and viability of the schools.