Barbara Messina, Ph.D. a longtime administrator and accreditation coordinator for Catholic schools within the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., is the first recipient of the Henry G. Cram Accreditation Leadership Award.
Messina received the award during the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools biannual meeting earlier this month.
The award honors unsung heroes of the accreditation process who devote countless hours and energy to obtain and maintain accreditation of their schools. Recipients are chosen because they have strong belief in and deep understanding of the Middle States accreditation process and a track record of creating and maintaining a school culture focused on continuous school improvement.
Messina is currently the director of leadership development and mission effectiveness for the Diocese of Syracuse, where she has worked since 1997. She also served as internal accreditation coordinator for the Diocese during the time when its 22 schools sought and received accreditation. Messina earned her doctorate in Catholic Educational Leadership from the Catholic University of America and serves as a volunteer with Middle States during which time she has visited and worked directly with schools undergoing the accreditation process.
Q. How did you first become engaged in the accreditation process?
A. In 2012 the Catholic School Office of the Diocese of Syracuse made a decision to pursue systems accreditation. Approximately half of the 22 schools in the Diocese were accredited at that time. I was working as an administrator at a Diocesan high school when the superintendent asked me to join the Catholic School Office and serve as internal coordinator for the accreditation process. I didn’t know what the job entailed, exactly, but I was excited for the opportunity.
Q. What do you see as one of the main benefits of Middle States accreditation?
A. The value of Middle States accreditation was immediately obvious to me. The provision of best practices that are embedded in the Excellence By Design protocol enable people to engage in a culture of continuous improvement. The process allows schools and schools systems to get in touch with themselves, understand where they are and where they want to be and then strategically plan how they are going to get there. I have friends in education in other parts of the United States that are working with other accrediting agencies. After talking with them it’s clear to me that what sets Middle States apart is their focus on relationship-building. They meet teachers, administrators and other constituents right where they are. When I work with Middle States I work with people. They pick up the phone, we meet in person, they come out to visit. These personal connections are invaluable.
Q. What do you enjoy most about working in education?
A. I’m very committed to lifelong learning. I find satisfaction in taking on the challenge of learning something new and then reflecting back on the experience. My career allows me to work with students and teachers who are dedicated to continuous improvement and understand that we’re never done growing and that there are always new things to learn. I am blessed to work with wonderful people.
Q. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
A. Sleeping! I love to read and now that my graduate school work is behind me, I have some time to read just for fun. I also enjoy being outdoors, and try to get outside as often as possible once the ice and snow in Syracuse has subsided for the season. If I’m being completely honest, I also enjoy a little retail therapy now and then.
Q. What is the most interesting place you’ve traveled to?
A. I love the ocean and find it peaceful and calming. Next summer my daughter and I are planning a trip to Scotland. We’re going to explore the Highlands and visit castles. My heritage is Scottish so I’m very much looking forward to it.