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St. Louis Attorneys Reflect on Teaching School Law to Educators

08/20/2021

The educational leadership program at Saint Louis University is fortunate to have several attorneys with knowledge about legal issues in education who serve as instructors for their school law courses.

Preparing educators to serve in leadership roles as principals or as district or diocesan level administrators involves teaching graduate students a broad range of subjects. While most courses are taught by full-time faculty within the educational leadership program, specialized classes require instructors who bring unique knowledge and experience to the classroom. Maureen Wangard, Ph.D., a coordinator in the Catholic and public school leadership programs for Saint Louis University’s School of Education, recently interviewed two attorneys who serve as adjunct instructors for the graduate programs in educational leadership.

The Public School Perspective

Michael Hodge
Michael Hodge

Michael Hodge teaches School Law and Advanced School Law to master’s and doctoral students enrolled in the public school educational leadership programs. Jody Wood, Ed.D., an associate professor in educational leadership, remarked “students tell me how much they love Mike Hodge’s class.” Hodge worked as a teacher for several years before attending law school and can relate well to issues in education because of his teaching experience. Megan Wade, a master’s student in his class, observed she appreciated “having a professor with training in both content areas in addition to real-life experience practicing school law. During our class sessions, it is clear Mr. Hodge is very knowledgeable about our course topics and beyond. My favorite part of the course so far is how Mr. Hodge has invited several guest speakers to our class sessions, which has been a great opportunity to learn from local professionals about how education and the law intersect and interact."

The Catholic School Perspective

Tom Buckley
Tom Buckley

Tom Buckley also teaches School Law and Advanced School Law to master’s and doctoral level students enrolled in the Catholic school leadership programs; however, there are several notable differences between classes offered for public and Catholic school educators. Since Buckley teaches school law for Catholic school educators, he incorporates civil and canon law related to Catholic education. John James, Ed.D., director of the graduate programs in Catholic school leadership, shared his appreciation for the breadth of Buckley’s knowledge, stating, “Law has so many specialties and sub-specialties that finding expertise and competence in the particular area of Catholic school law is often very hard to find. We are fortunate to have someone of Tom's caliber and expertise teaching for us." Buckley serves as general counsel for the archdiocese of St. Louis and takes a keen interest in constitutional issues surrounding topics such as school choice and first amendment rights. Eileen Quinones, a doctoral student based in Houston, Texas, believes Buckley is an excellent professor because “his class has a practical and experiential approach, focused on our role as administrators. Anecdotes, examples, and knowledgeable advice are the hallmark of this important course.”

The Impact of  Law on School Leadership

When he spoke with Wangard, Buckley talked about the ways in which legal issues influence practical, everyday issues for educators, principals, and upper-level administrators, which often go unnoticed by students and parents in elementary and secondary schools. Julie Gates, a doctoral student in the Catholic school leadership program who teaches at St. Louis Catholic Academy, indicated that although she has very little background in school law, “Professor Buckley provided me with an amazing understanding by making his class very practical. We focus on real-world scenarios to help us better understand situations that we may encounter one day as Catholic school educators and leaders."

Likewise, Hodge discussed how laws passed in the state legislature and court case decisions have a domino effect in terms of how new laws can impact what happens in the day-to-day operation of a school. Caleb McCandless, a doctoral student in Saint Louis University’s Kansas City cohort, appreciated Mr. Hodge’s class, saying, “I was impressed with Mike's knowledge of the laws and statutes that affect public education. I especially enjoyed the in-depth conversations about key court decisions and how they impact school leadership.”

Collaboration Between Educators and Attorneys

Wangard hopes current and incoming students watch the videos of Buckley and Hodge because they both stressed the importance of collaboration between educators and attorneys and they use a similar approach in their teaching styles. After speaking with both attorneys, Wangard remarked that their outlook and approach makes what might be a scary experience for some educators feel much less intimidating because “they view attorneys as partners with educators and encourage open communication and dialogue.” Master’s student Troy Ruckman appreciates how “Professor Hodge utilizes his outside expertise in law to create an engaging class that thrives on discussion centered on important issues in education, making the experience an overall excellent class!” Likewise, Lourdes McKay, shared a similar observation about Buckley, saying, “For me, a good law professor's qualities are the same ones that make an excellent person, such as compassion, intelligence, humility, and humor, to name a few, and Professor Buckley has them all.” Educational leadership faculty agree that students in the program are very fortunate to learn from Hodge and Buckley and the lessons learned will follow them through their careers as leaders in education.

See the full interview with Tom Buckley

See the full interview with Michael Hodge 

For more information about the educational leadership programs at Saint Louis University, visit their website