New principals at Catholic schools this fall will include leadership teams
Catholic schools have always depended on team work and that has never been more important than this year, as diocesan schools look to new models of leadership.
Of the five Catholic schools that are welcoming new principals this month, Corpus Christi in Bloomington has a principal team and Holy Cross in Champaign will have co-principals. Trinity Catholic Academy in LaSalle, St. Philomena in Peoria and St. Mary in Pontiac have administrators that are moving up after being mentored as assistant principals last year.
A principal search continues at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline.
“We’ve been having some challenges with principal searches. We’re not alone,” said Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Peoria. “The other dioceses are experiencing some of those problems in education as well because there’s just not a lot of people that want to go back and obtain administrative certification or licensure.”
“The role of a Catholic school principal is a very challenging one,” said Jerry Sanderson, associate superintendent of diocesan schools. “A comparable thing in a public school district might be the role of the superintendent, the role of the building principal, the role of the district curriculum director, the role of anybody who is in communications or public relations for that public school district — all of those different roles are assumed by the Catholic school principal.”
The advantage of having a leadership team or co-principals is that administrative tasks can be delegated based on each person’s expertise and areas of interest, he said.
“It’s also an opportunity to have a colleague to bounce ideas off of and I think it brings a little more creativity to the situation because you have more than one viewpoint,” Sanderson told The Catholic Post.
That is true at Corpus Christi in Bloomington, where Richard Morehouse has been named principal. Rounding out the team are Adrienne Wilson, who will serve as vice principal while she completes her master’s degree in educational administration and foundations at Illinois State University, and Judy Clark, assistant principal.
Clark was the interim principal during the spring semester after Gwenn Roche moved to Missouri to be closer to her family.
Morehouse comes to Corpus Christi from St. Mary School in Pontiac, where he had been principal for seven years. That included four years of double duty as principal at St. Paul School in Odell. He will remain the part-time principal at the Odell school.
Prior to that he had been principal at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington (1984-91) and Epiphany School in Normal (1995-2011).
While he “retired” from the Pontiac school, he said he didn’t relish the thought of not working with the students. “It’s all about the kids — they energize you and keep you young,” he said.
When Morehouse was asked to stay on at the Odell school so his successor in Pontiac, Karen Jones, could concentrate on that school, he happily agreed. He also welcomed the opportunity to mentor Wilson as she prepares for leadership at Corpus Christi.
“I think the three of us will work well together,” he said. “It will be interesting. It will be fun to do.”
Wilson grew up in Washington and attended St. Patrick School. After earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Illinois State University she returned to her alma mater to teach kindergarten for four years, and then taught kindergarten and third grade at St. Mary School in Bloomington.
She was accepted into the master’s program at ISU last October and will graduate in 2020.
“I’m ready. I feel good,” Wilson said. “I feel like since I have been in the classroom for eight years I’m able to approach this role from an administrative viewpoint, but also from a teacher viewpoint. My goal is to support my teachers as best I can because I can relate to the daily stressors that they have.”
She added that she wished every school had the kind of support she has right now.
“It is so wonderful to be able to work with such experienced administrators and that they can bring so many different viewpoints to the table,” Wilson said. “We can choose what is best for our students, for our teachers, for our families.”
Adding the institutional memory to the mix is Clark, who has taught fifth and second grades at Corpus Christi and was the school secretary for two years before being named assistant principal.
“I am genuinely excited about it,” she said. “I kind of feel like Dick has all of the seasoned experience and really can bring to the table all of that knowledge and direction that’s needed — and he’s such an advocate of Catholic education.”
Wilson brings “a genuine enthusiasm, a drive that you don’t typically see in individuals this young. She also has a huge dedication to Catholic education,” Clark said, and a real “curriculum drive.”
“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be good to see where God leads us next,” Clark said.
CO-PRINCIPALS IN CHAMPAIGN
Joe McDaniel announced his intention to step down as principal of Holy Cross School in Champaign when the 2017-18 school year ended, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he and former Holy Cross administrator Rose Costello will work together as co-principals for the coming year.
The configuration was finalized at the end of July, so details about how they’ll share responsibilities are still being worked out.
“It’s kind of exciting, something new — looking at it in a different way,” McDaniel said.
“The main thing about this whole thing is both Joe and I really loved this school. Because we love this school, we wanted to come back and help out as best we could,” Costello said.
Together they have more than 40 years of experience as Catholic school administrators.
A longtime Catholic school teacher, McDaniel was principal for nine years at St. Matthew School in Champaign and did development work at The High School of Saint Thomas More, also in Champaign, before coming to Holy Cross in 2017.
Costello taught at the former St. Patrick School in Danville for four years and then went to Holy Cross in Champaign in 1976. She was a teacher and assistant principal there until 1999, when she was named the principal.
She retired in May 2013, but later that year became the first regional coordinator of Catholic education for the Champaign Vicariate. Costello stepped down after a year to visit her children, work in the garden, read books and spend more time with her husband.
“It was all very nice,” she said, “but I always kept an eye out for Holy Cross to see what was going on.”
Even the public schools are having a tough time finding qualified principals, Costello said. “It’s a tough job. It’s all consuming. It’s very intense.”
The search for a full-time principal for Holy Cross continues.