By: John P. Foley, S.J., Chair Emeritus
Often enough when one is giving a schematic explanation of how a Cristo Rey school is organized, we think in terms of a direct line: at the top is the President, second in line is the Principal and finally in third place the Director of the Corporate Work Study Program. (Actually sometimes one gets the impression that the Corporate Work Study Director is in some sort of ancillary capacity, a sort of intruder in the whole academic scene.) I do not think that schema accurately describes a Cristo Rey school; it misses a basic point in the whole educational model.
Instead of a line, the more accurate description is a triangle. The President is at the top and directly under the President are the Principal and the Corporate Work Study Director. They are equally important in the school hierarchy, something academics often have a problem acknowledging. As a result, both those offices at the school are given similar recognition.
When the Principal is taken into account, the Director is too. Equally, when the Director is taken into account, the Principal is too. The Principal and the Director both have a say about who is admitted to the school; both have a say about who is asked to leave the school. In any kind of public formal setting, when one occupies a seat in a place of honor, the other does too. In this way, the school is telling people that the Corporate Work Study Program is in no way an add-on but a program that is as basic to a Cristo Rey education as algebra or English literature.
Obviously such a structure, a triangle, supposes that the two can work in harmony, both equally responsible and equally committed to the integral formation of the students. Ours are schools that professionally prepare young people for the work world they are moving into. One of the happy results of this innovative structure is that, while in the past the President of a school had to be a school person and have clear academic credentials, that is no longer the case. In our Cristo Rey model, we have discovered that it is sufficient that a good Principal be the academic leader and thus opening up the President’s position to people who come from other, equally professional, backgrounds. It is obvious to everyone concerned how much value some of our non-academic presidents bring to our movement.
The Cristo Rey movement is an innovative educational model. Much of the innovation comes from recognizing the education the students receive from working in a professional context. Let us work on making that clear at all our Cristo Rey schools.