Brenda White is retiring as president of Siena Catholic Schools of Racine at the end of June. (Submitted photo)

The pile of books on Brenda White’s nightstand might start getting whittled down soon.


White, who has served as the founding president of Siena Catholic Schools of Racine since 2017, has announced her retirement, effective June 30.


White said she is eager to spend more time with her family, catch up on books, do some gardening and travel with her husband and family.


“It pains me to think that I won’t continue in a professional role that I love, but I will remain active in my faith, serve my Church and volunteer on the Our Time is Now Campaign for St. Catherine’s High School,” she said. “On top of my book pile is “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr and “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate. It’s going to be a tough choice which one comes first, but they both are highly recommended by family and friends who are book lovers. I also have a travel book on Croatia that I am anxious to read. Croatia is on my bucket list, and I look forward to learning more about the culture, people and the best places to see in the country.”


White made the decision to retire last year when she turned 65 and battled breast cancer. To overcome the fear accompanied by her diagnosis and resulting chemotherapy, she focused on prayer and gratitude.


“Cancer helped me to focus on what matters most in life,” White said. “I decided that I wanted to spend more time with family and do the things that have taken a back seat to my career. While I love my job, I began to realize that it is time to pass the leadership torch and allow God to redirect my life.”


In addition to her time at Siena Catholic Schools of Racine, she spent 10 years serving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as an assistant superintendent of schools. She was a principal for 20 years, including time at St. Adalbert, Holy Apostles, Wisconsin Hills Middle School and St. Margaret Mary. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University and her Master of Science and education specialist degrees in administrative leadership with a focus on superintendency from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. White is a founding board member of the Principal Center at Cardinal Stritch University, as well as a founding board member of Choice Schools Association. She is currently a board member of School Choice Wisconsin.


“I am passionate about advocating for high-quality education options for families,” White said. “I hope to stay active on the School Choice Wisconsin Action Board and continue to work on behalf of families who want the right to choose the school that is best for their children.”  


White enjoyed her tenure as a principal, but wanted to have a central office role to make more of a difference in the overall educational system.


“Fortunately, I got the chance to serve as an associate superintendent in the archdiocesan Office for Schools,” White said. “During our work to create the Siena system in Racine, I never imagined being the president. I was part of the interview team for hiring the president when I was asked to apply for the role. Looking back, it is easy for me to see the Lord’s hand guiding me throughout my career.”  


Siena Catholic Schools of Racine is comprised of six schools: John Paul II Academy, Our Lady of Grace Academy, St. Catherine’s High School, St. Joseph Catholic School, St. Lucy Catholic School and St. Rita Catholic School. St. Sebastian STEM Academy, which is set to re-open in 2023-24, will be the seventh Siena school.


Crediting Racine as a city with faith-filled and generous people, White said the community rallied together to grow their Catholic schools.


“I have been blessed to be surrounded by so many mission-driven leaders, teachers, pastors, alumni and volunteers who want to serve students and families,” she said. “The schools have a rich history with the Racine Dominican sisters, and I love that we are carrying on their legacy. We have incredible students, and it has been a joy to serve them.”


The most difficult task in her 42 years as an educator was navigating school through the COVID-19 pandemic. The stress and trauma, along with moving forward positively, were arduous for her and everyone in the school system.


“I am grateful to have collaborative colleagues in the archdiocese (who) pulled together and helped each other get through the pandemic,” White said.  


White and her husband of 40 years, Bill, belong to St. Mary Parish in Hales Corners. The couple has three adult children — Heather, Rachel and Michael — who attended the parish grade school. White and her family have served in various capacities in the parish throughout those years.


White is a member of the search committee to find her replacement and said she is happy to have a voice in the process.