St. Philip School students celebrate principal’s graduation

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SMITHFIELD — “Congratulations!” screamed the student body, teachers and staff with loud applause. Cynthia Senenko, principal of St. Philip School in Smithfield, had just completed a classroom observation and walked down the hall into the school gym. As the clapping and cheering continued, Senenko stood speechless in astonishment. Father Francis C. Santilli, pastor of St. Philip Church, then stepped to the microphone: “Mrs. Senenko, we’re celebrating your completion of the Boston College Emmaus Program. Congratulations!”

For the past 20 months, Principal Senenko has participated in the Boston College Emmaus Catholic School Leadership Series. Traveling back and forth regularly to Dover, Mass., where the program takes place, mostly afternoons and evenings but also occasionally during school days, participants in the series, Catholic school administrators from around the country who were chosen for the program through a selective admissions process, receive high-level, research-based professional development and learning. Although designed as broad leadership induction program, the series zeros in on three core competencies of Catholic school leadership determined by the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools: faith leadership, instructional leadership, and operational leadership.

With other members of her cohort, Principal Senenko has immersed herself in current educational theories, best practices and robust interactive learning-sessions on aligning the Gospel to every dimension of a school’s life, exploring and measuring mission commitment in a school, leading teacher evaluation processes, fostering means to student achievement and growth through effective learning strategies, developing communications plans that engage community stakeholders, and planning with meaningful and relevant data for financial sustainability, enrollment management, and institutional advancement.