New Catholic school principals feel blessed by opportunities

New administrators or leadership configurations were waiting for students at schools in Bloomington, Champaign, East Moline, Kewanee, Metamora and Odell when classes started in August.

One of those new configurations is taking place at Holy Trinity School in Bloomington, where Gayla Moore will be the interim principal of the elementary school and Christina Ellis will be interim principal of the junior high. Both had been assistant principals under Kay O’Brien, who retired in May.

Ryan Bustle has moved from the principal’s office at St. Mary’s School in Metamora to lead The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign. Succeeding him at St. Mary’s is Jim Dansart, a former teacher and administrator for Metamora and Germantown Hills public schools.

Scott Turnipseed, a longtime teacher and administrator in Quad Cities public schools, now serves as principal at Our Lady of Grace Academy in East Moline, while Elizabeth Blachinsky has returned to Visitation School in Kewanee, where she had been principal from 1994 to 1998.
Richard Morehouse has added leadership of St. Paul’s School in Odell to his duties as principal at St. Mary’s School in Pontiac. He succeeds Ed Condon, who retired, in Odell.

As summer vacation was coming to an end, The Catholic Post asked the administrators to talk about what attracted them to teaching, to Catholic education and to their new posts. Their responses follow.

Elizabeth Blachinsky
Visitation School, Kewanee

Degrees: Bachelor of science in education with Minnesota kindergarten endorsement, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minn., 1969; master’s of education in educational leadership, Western Illinois University, Macomb, 1992.

Experience: Early Learning Center, Wheeling, preschool teacher (1973-74); Wheeling School District, fourth grade teacher (1974-76); Visitation School, Kewanee, fourth grade, second grade, first grade and kindergarten teacher (1976-91), and principal (1994-98); St. Louis School, Princeton, principal (1991-94); Belle Alexander School (Kindergarten and First Grade Attendance Center), Kewanee, principal (1998-2012).

Why teaching: “I had a remarkable kindergarten teacher myself when I was a child in Minnesota and knew I wanted to be a teacher in about third grade. We lived across the street from the school — I went in every morning to help.”

Why Catholic education: Raised an Episcopalian, Blachinsky was inspired by the faith of her father-in-law, Charles, and knew it was important for her husband’s family that their children attend Visitation School. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1976, just before she started teaching at Visitation.

Why Visitation, Kewanee: “Visitation has given my children an excellent education. . . . The opening came up within a few days of my retirement and I just kept thinking about it. Wouldn’t it be just right? It would be the icing on the cake.”


Ryan Bustle
The High School of Saint Thomas More, Champaign

Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in education (2004) and master’s degree in educational administration (2009), both from Illinois State University.
Experience: Holy Trinity School, Bloomington, second grade and fifth grade teacher (2004-09); St. Mary’s School, Metamora, principal (2009-12).

Why teaching: Bustle had a good experience during his own school days at Epiphany School in Normal and wants to pass that on to the young people he serves. He also enjoys seeing their progress “from the time they walk through the door on the first day of school until the last day in May.”

Why Catholic education: “I can’t think of more than maybe three or four occupations where you can incorporate your faith in what you spent all your time learning and training to do,” Bustle said when he accepted the job at St. Mary’s. Recently he told The Post that that position was good preparation for working with the older students at Saint Thomas More and the additional responsibilities that come with a larger staff and facility.
Why The High School of Saint Thomas More, Champaign: When Dr. Sharon Weiss, new superintendent of Catholic schools, asked Bustle what he saw for his future, he told her he enjoyed working in diocesan schools and wanted to stay in central Illinois. As the search committee at Saint Thomas More was working this summer, she mentioned his name, and “it all happened pretty quickly. I could not have been more fortunate — I felt like it was the right time for it to happen, like this is the direction God pointed me in.”


Jim Dansart
St. Mary’s School, Metamora

Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in biology and physical education, Eureka College, 1978; master’s degree in educational administration, Illinois State University, 1982; certificate in advanced studies, Western Illinois University.

Experience: Eureka High School, taught science and PE (1978-82); Metamora High School, taught health and PE (1982-2004); Germantown Hills Junior High School, principal (2004-08); Germantown Hills District 69, superintendent (2008-12).

Why teaching: “Probably the most influential people in my life were my high school teachers. They just kind of looked out for me and made me believe I had more ability than I let myself believe.”

Why Catholic education: “I was raised in a Catholic family and have been involved in the Catholic Church my whole life. . . . I wanted to get closer to the church. Our children are grown and married. This is almost a blessing.”

Why St. Mary’s, Metamora: Dansart retired on June 30 and was hired at St. Mary’s on Aug. 1. He said he applied for the job because St. Mary’s is his parish and he’s found it to be a small, close-knit community with wonderful, supportive families. “I’m excited and happy to have the opportunity,” he said.


Christina Ellis
Holy Trinity Junior High School, Bloomington

Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in communication, 1993; bachelor’s degree in elementary education, 1997; and master’s degree in educational administration, 2003, all from Illinois State University.

Experience: TriValley Elementary and Middle School, Downs, second and fifth grade teacher (1998-2006); Holy Trinity, Bloomington, assistant principal (2006-12).

Why teaching: After graduating in 1993, Ellis went to work for United Cerebral Palsy in Peoria. “I was doing fundraising, but little by little I kept taking on responsibilities that were to work with our clients. I knew when I was doing that that this was where my passion was — working with children.”

Why Catholic education: “I think it’s the only place that children truly learn the Catholic faith, that the Catholic identity is in every room and becomes a part of who they are. It forms them,” she said. “That’s why I chose it for my children and why I want every parent to choose it for their child.”
Why Holy Trinity, Bloomington: When she was working at TriValley some colleagues knew about the opening for an assistant principal at Holy Trinity and told her, “That’s for you.” Ellis said she doesn’t want to change anything, but continue to build on what Kay O’Brien started. “We have a very good community atmosphere. We have wonderful, supportive families. We have a very dedicated staff. I want to continue everything that she has built.”


Gayla Moore
Holy Trinity Elementary School, Bloomington

Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education, 1988; master’s degree in adapted physical education, 1989; and master’s degree in educational administration, 1999, all from Illinois State University.
Experience: St. Malachy’s School, Rantoul, second grade teacher (1990); Epiphany School, Normal, fifth grade teacher (1991-95) and social studies and language arts junior high teacher (1996); Holy Trinity, Bloomington, assistant principal (1996-2012).

Why teaching: “I was attracted to teaching as a young girl. I can remember when I was in fifth grade I had a teacher that inspired me to begin thinking about education as a career. Again, in high school the urge to become a teacher resurfaced while I sat in history classes. Many of my teachers were excellent role models and were truly inspirational.”

Why Catholic education: “I was attracted to teaching in a Catholic school because I wanted to serve God and the church through my vocation. I am thankful that Catholic schools allow me to do this.”

Why Holy Trinity, Bloomington: “Holy Trinity is an excellent school. The priests, administrators, teachers, parents and students all continually work together to make Holy Trinity a wonderful place to be. Together we are truly a school family working for the same goal of maintaining and ensuring excellence in Catholic education for the children of today and tomorrow. I am proud and humbled to be a part of Holy Trinity Catholic School.”


Richard Morehouse
St. Mary’s School, Pontiac,
and St. Paul’s School, Odell

Featured last fall when he was named principal at St. Mary’s School in Pontiac, Morehouse previously served as principal at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington (1984-91) and Epiphany School in Normal (1995-2011). Taking on additional responsibility at St. Paul’s in Odell was not a surprise.

“During the Reid study, the cluster that St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s were part of recommended that since there were only two Catholic schools in the area when one principal resigned or retired we would combine the administrative part of it,” Morehouse told The Post, citing the work done through “Growing in Faith Together.” “The administrator at St. Paul’s retired in May, so it pushed everything into action.”

He said it’s going to be a challenge for everyone, but he will strive to make certain that both schools keep their identities. Working together to share resources is another priority.


Scott Turnipseed
Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy, East Moline

Degrees: Bachelor’s degree, University of Northern Iowa, 1976; master’s degree in educational administration, Western Illinois University, 1981; additional coursework in school business management.

Experience: Moline High School, Moline, business teacher (1976-94); Horace Mann Elementary School, Moline, principal (1994-2008); Bicentennial Elementary School, Coal Valley (2008-10); Blackhawk Center for Special Education, East Moline, substitute teacher (2010-12).

Why teaching: “I enjoy working with young people, whether it be on the high school level, middle school or elementary.”

Why Catholic education: “It was an opportunity I just couldn’t let go by. I did a little research. The parents in that parish and others who were related to the school children were very convincing and dedicated to Catholic education and I wanted to be part of that.”

Why Our Lady of Grace, East Moline: “I just wanted to continue to work with young people and help progress academically and socially,” said Turnipseed, who is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Christ the King in Moline. “I still think I have some things to share.”

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