What is it you appreciate most about Catholic education?
My husband and I joke that Catholic schools are our family business. We love Catholic schools because we value how, in a Catholic school, we can explicitly form the spiritual life of our students in addition to the intellectual and physical dimensions. From being able to talk about God to praying in all forms and at all times, Catholic schools provide a well-rounded education steeped in faith and rooted in the Gospels.
What opportunities are you looking most forward to in your new role as Executive Director of St. Eugene and St. Monica schools?
I am eager to form a strong leadership team with the principals of St. Eugene and St. Monica. Together, we will create a vision for our schools that will ensure our vitality and Catholic identity for the future. I look forward to mentoring, creating strong professional development opportunities and working on curriculum initiatives.
Your daughter followed in your footsteps to attend Dominican High School. What is special about that community?
I had an amazing experience at Dominican and I think Rose’s experience was even better. I just wish more people would consider sending their children there and understand what a great high school it is and all it has to offer. Rose got involved with campus ministry and continued to feed her spiritual life. I think that has really put her on solid ground now that she’s in college. You always worry as a parent. Are your children going to continue to feed their faith when they’re in college? Rose goes to church every Sunday. She’s gotten her roommates who aren’t Catholic to come to church with her on occasion, and she’s not afraid to express her faith. I really think she got that foundation both at St. Eugene and at Dominican, and we’re just so grateful for that.
You stepped away from your work as an educator for a bit; how did you get pulled back in?
I stayed home after the birth of our daughter. When she was entering first grade at St. Eugene, our principal, Michael Taylor, took another position, leaving St. Eugene in need of a principal two weeks before the start of school. Our pastor, Fr. Jerry Herda, knew my background and asked if I would step in to be an interim principal. I had no intentions of returning to school leadership. I thought I would return to the classroom. However, I needed to give this strong consideration. How could I say no to my pastor? And I was invested in my daughter’s school. So I said, “yes.” I thought it would be for a year. As the year unfolded, I fell back in love with Catholic school leadership. The strong faculty and supportive families drew me back in. I was invited to apply for the position permanently. I was offered the position, which led to 13 wonderful years serving as St. Eugene’s principal.
It sounds like you had a similar experience of answering a call when it comes to your new position. Is that right?
Yes. In various conversations it kind of evolved. Fr. Mark (Payne) had this idea (for a new position – director of St. Eugene and St. Monica schools), and then I thought I could see how this could work. Fr. Mark said, “Well, if we do this, I would really like you to be in that position.” Which of course was very humbling and exciting. I’m so grateful, to both Fr. Jerry and to Fr. Mark, that they have trusted me with these positions.
How gratifying has it been to watch your daughter flourish in Catholic schools?
I absolutely loved being able to come to school with my daughter every day. It’s a unique experience to be present and to support what she does in such an intimate way. What was it like serving in a school she attended? When I would visit her classroom, she would eagerly greet me and never hesitated to give me a hug. Her classmates never treated her differently. Of course, this changed a bit when she was in eighth grade. Then it wasn’t as much fun for her to be the principal’s daughter. However, being able to give her her diploma was special. She has always been my biggest cheerleader. In fact, on my first day as St. Eugene’s principal, I was quite nervous. Rose said, “Don’t worry, mom. I’ll be right across the hall.”
Under your leadership, St. Eugene has received exemplary recognition in several areas. Is there a particular award you are most proud that the school has received?
I am incredibly proud of the recognition St. Eugene has received, especially its Exemplary Recognition awards. All four of them highlight St. Eugene’s strengths. I do think the recognition of being exemplary for our Catholic identity is most important. Everything flows from our Catholic faith.
School culture is a distinct part of any educational experience. How can schools and families foster positive attitudes amongst students and create a welcoming environment for all?
A positive school culture allows students to learn and allows teachers to teach. If we live according to the Gospel message and Jesus’ command to love our neighbor and love God, then we will create a school culture which exemplifies God’s love. It’s not always easy, but our Church gives us the tools, including acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation and community.