In Her Leadership Role with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, SOE Alumna Feels Her Late Mentor’s Presence


In the year since Christina S. Arellano ’17 began serving as assistant superintendent of elementary Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, she has thought a lot about her mentor at LMU, the late Anthony “Tony” Sabatino, Ed.D., who was a clinical associate professor and director of SOE’s Catholic School Leadership Programs until his untimely death on May 22, 2017 at the age of 66.

Arellano, a graduate of SOE’s Catholic School Leadership Academy program and a current student in the LMU SOE Ed.D. in Educational Leadership for Social Justice, currently leads more than 35 schools in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and also heads the accreditation efforts as the Western Catholic Educational Association commissioner for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She wouldn’t be in such a position of responsibility, she says, without the inspiration and guidance of Sabatino, and the leadership program’s other faculty.

A product of Catholic education, Arellano was a principal at St. Stephen Martyr School in Monterey Park, a school within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, when Sabatino persuaded her to enroll in SOE’s Certificate in Catholic School Administration program — which equips prospective and novice Catholic school leaders with the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to lead for vitality and excellence in Catholic schools — and then continue into the master’s degree program.

Anthony “Tony” Sabatino, Ed.D.

“Dr. Sabatino said, ‘You are not being the gift you were meant to be for hundreds of thousands of children you could help,’ ” Arellano recalls. “He challenged me, and made me come out of my comfort zone.”

Once in the program, Arellano says, she was amazed to find that the tools she picked up were immediately applicable to her daily work. Arellano says she benefited from the high professional and personal expectations set by the program’s faculty. In turn, she began to raise the bar for her own teachers, several of whom she brought into the Catholic School Leadership Academy program. Arellano has also recommended the program, now under the direction of Lauren Casella, Ed.D., to several other Catholic school principals.

Arellano says it was hard for her to return to LMU to complete the program after Sabatino passed away, but she was encouraged by her other professors to persist. “My educational journey and career mobility have been blessed by my association with LMU,” she says. “Professors like Dr. Sabatino and Dr. Casella have made me realize my worth and my contribution in the educational field. I continue to feel Dr. Sabatino’s presence both spiritually and professionally, and know he is looking down on me.”