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Archives Principals aim to serve Catholic schools ‘in best possible capacity’

Nov. 22, 2017

By Mary Lou Kilian

When long-time Carthage Augustinian Academy teacher Mary Ann Margrey accepted her new role as principal shegilbertmargrey also accepted the suggestion that she take part in the Emmaus Leadership Series through Boston College.

“Once I said ‘yes’ to the position I wanted to be sure I could serve Augustinian Academy students, staff, and families in the best possible capacity,” she said.

St. Joseph Sister Ellen Rose Coughlin, diocesan superintendent of schools, encouraged Mrs. Margery as well as Lynn Gilbert, principal of Seton Catholic in Plattsburgh, to participate in the professional development program for Catholic school administrators.

The Emmaus Leadership Series is an initiative of the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education. Housed within the top-ranked Lynch School of Education at Boston College, the Roche Center brings together a collaborative community of Catholic school leaders, teachers, researchers, scholars, and innovators to sustain and improve K-12 Catholic education. 

Kathleen Behrens, principal of Trinity Catholic School in Massena has competed the 20-month program and Sister Ellen Rose was convinced that Mrs. Margrey and Ms Gilbert would also find the program beneficial.
She was right.

“This was a deeply spiritual journey with much self-reflection,” Mrs. Margrey said. “It was truly an affirmation to the calling to be a principal.  The whole experience was uplifting, and it has alleviated some of the anxiety with taking on this leadership role.

Ms Gilbert said, “As professionals, there is always room for improvement, but as educational leaders, it is even more imperative that we continue to expand our knowledge and challenge our assumptions, if we expect our students, staff and faculty to continue to grow and learn in a constantly changing world. 

“Leading by example guarantees success and some of the strategies that the Emmaus Series teaches, is not what to do better, but rather how we can each look at ourselves differently in order to make positive change when necessary,” she said.

Retreat in Boston
The two North Country principals were among 24 Catholic school leaders from across the country who gathered in July at the Boston College Connors Family Retreat Center.

At a three-day “foundational retreat” the groundwork was laid for a 20-month professional development journey with the Emmaus Leadership Series.

The goal is to help their schools grow through spiritual leadership, curriculum and instructional design, and business management.

“The days were full of work sessions that spoke of what it means to be in a Catholic school,” Mrs. Margrey said, “how we should be mission driven, how to lead Catholic schools, how to cultivate spiritual leadership, how to use the National Standards & Benchmarks, how to lead change, and how to move forward.”

Ms. Gilbert added, “This 20-month program combines prayerful inspiration, sustainable techniques and methodologies for success with statistically proven results.  The program allows for continuous professional development that is focused heavily on the administrative role at each educational institution.

The schedule includes workshop sessions every other month, a two-day retreat in May, 2018, and commencement in April, 2019. The topic for the September workshop was “Leading Effective School Boards.”

Driven by mission
As she begins the program, Mrs. Margrey said, “So far, I am concentrating on our school mission and working to ensure that all we do is driven by the mission. I also have enjoyed the collaboration with other principals across the country who are working on the same areas. 

Ms. Gilbert agreed. “The support from other principals across the country allows encouragement from others who are also experiencing many of the same issues within their own schools,” she said. “The networking is priceless and the connections will last a lifetime.”

Both principals also have already seen that their participation in the Emmaus series has had a positive effect on their schools.

“The program has raised my awareness of all the roles that are a part of being a principal,” Mrs. Margrey said. “I believe this awareness will help me to have a more positive impact on my staff, students, and families of Augustinian Academy. 

“We have been in existence since 1885 under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph, she said. “ I want to continue their good works and maintain the outstanding school we have.”

Ms. Gilbert added, “My tenure at Seton Catholic Middle and  High School as the principal for the secondary campus of The Seton Schools (grades 6-12) has been an amazing experience, but every day is a new adventure filled with the opportunity to always learn more. Each course, workshop and webinar brings new ideas and support to our school system in a very positive and revitalizing way.

“I am very proud to have had the opportunity to improve my educational leadership proficiencies and to enhance my vision for the permanency of Catholic secondary education,” she said.

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