I most recently served as the Assistant Principal at St. Stephen School in Kingsville, Maryland. I resigned from the position in March of 2018 to allow time for a replacement to be hired while I finished wrapping up the school year. I would like to reflect on my time at St. Stephen and share the good news of my recent employment.
While at St. Stephen, I steamrolled my way through the key aspects of advancement: enrollment, marketing, development, and finance. Bringing all my experience from my previous position as Director of Enrollment Management for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I knew the urgency of implementing necessary change as well as inspiring others with the beauty of Catholic faith and culture. It wasn’t easy to bring new initiatives to an institution that had been doing things the same way for decades. Also, since this was my home parish there was a challenge in working with the community that I not only grew up with but was still in my backyard. I lived and worshipped in the same five mile radius for over 30 years and now worked there too!
Below are my top three moments from my time at SSS:
- Hosting the 85th Anniversary Gala One of my first self-assigned tasks was to read the entire history book of St. Stephen parish which had recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. I soon came to realize that the school was going to hit 85 years on September 8, 2016 just a few short months after I began my position. To capitalize on the event and invite alumni to engage back into the school, I launched an 85th anniversary planning committee. Ten wonderful women joined me in creatively planning celebrations throughout the school year which culminated in the sold-out Gala on May 20, 2017! Everyone in attendance was shocked at the transformation of the gymnasium into a gorgeous venue including a memory lane that honored ten VIPs. Parishioners, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Community Members danced the night away and as one colleague reflected, “It was so meaningful to watch these folks come here to celebrate a place so dear to them for so long.” I will never forget this night and especially when the table holding the 200 rented china plates broke!! ACK!
- Reaching Maximum Capacity for Enrollment I set for myself a goal of filling every seat in every class. And I did it. The school had a somewhat healthy enrollment of 313 students when I arrived, but I had seen too many Catholic schools close in the past few years and knew that unless we made instrumental changes, the same fate would come along for us. By implementing 21st century practices such as online applications and enrollment, a social media presence, digital advertising, and various other new endeavors, the tide quickly turned. We opened the school for the 2016-2017 school year with 325 students. Then in 2017-2018, we opened with 348 students and now look forward to the 2018-2019 school year with an estimated student body of 361. The most astounding accomplishment was the “talk” on the street about St. Stephen. Students had been traditionally exiting the school at PreK4 and 5th grade for either public or other private schools. This had to change. So while attracting new families to our school through marketing, the greatest challenge was retaining the current families and promoting a culture and a spirit at St. Stephen that made everyone proud of their school. Through a new website, promotional video, and branding, we told the story of our beautiful school in a modern and exciting way. We weren’t a second choice anymore, we are the first choice. This past admissions season was bitter sweet because we had waiting lists in almost every grade level; however, we had to turn away parishioners for the first time in over 20 years. Our theme, “A Piece of Heaven in 21087”, caught on and families and community members truly embraced the beauty of our tight-knit, rural school and the gift of Catholic education.
- A Healthy School = More Programs Building enrollment, reaching alumni, inspiring spirit all result in an irresistible environment. When people believe in your mission, they donate more funds, they volunteer more hours, they offer their gifts and talents. But one of the hardest parts of the job, and one that is most hidden, is tracking down the dollars and cents. I was always told that if you look at a budget, you will know the mission of an organization. It quickly became clear that the budget was mostly dependent upon tuition dollars which is the case in most Catholic elementary schools. As an advancement department of one, I worked intentionally to apply for grants, collect delinquent bills, move as much money online as possible for faster and more accurate accounting, engage support for HSA and Fathers’ Club fundraisers, and increase the Annual Appeal goal. My purpose was to move the pendulum away from tuition dependency to other sources of income outside of the parents. My fear was always that we would have to increase tuition which in turn would drive away our families, decrease enrollment, and then close the school (which I had seen happen countless times). I am very proud of multiple programs and new hires that resulted from our sustainable and healthy budget. Most notably, I can’t wait to see the new Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program begin in the 2018-2019 school year under the direction of an incredibly talented and holy woman. This program teaches our youngest children ages 3-5 about their Good Shepherd, Christ, and invites them into a personal relationship with Him which is celebrated most deeply in the Mass. Bringing young families back to the Catholic Church and to Mass will be the greatest gift for our parish.
But why did I leave?
I know this has been a question of many. And while I can’t share every piece of my heart, I will share three short answers:
- I reached all my goals and always crave a challenge.
- My husband encouraged me to take a leap of faith.
- Having enrolled my daughter in the rising PreK3 class, I felt conflicted in a role of leadership while also being a mom.
Farewell St. Stephen! It has been such a pleasure serving this blessed school. I look forward to being a parent in the Fall of 2018 and putting in my volunteer hours!
I am excited to announce that I have accepted a position at the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the Department of Development. My title as Regional Development Director means that I will be serving schools and parishes in promoting their mission and raising funds to support their great work. I am most grateful for the flexibility that has been offered to me as a working mother. I hope to use this website as a platform to share my experiences, successes, and failures in the effort to assist others working in the vineyard of the Lord. Diocesan work is tough, but rewarding and I am proud to be a part of the team in the Premier See!
“Here’s a picture of what God can do with a woman who will say yes even when it looks messy, even when it looks hard, and even when it’s so different from the picture you had in your head. ” ~ One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler