No desk job for former principal

By Jessica Langdon
jessica@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ann Connor stepped into the role of associate superintendent for archdiocesan Catholic schools July 1.

And her job description covers a lot of ground.

It starts with a responsibility to help teachers and principals infuse the Catholic faith into every lesson. It then moves onto keeping the schools current with state and advanced education accreditation, providing staff development opportunities for principals and teachers, mentoring new principals, and working with teachers on licensure, just to name a few.

When associate superintendent Karla Leibham left her position with the archdiocese to serve as principal of St. James Academy in Lenexa, the schools office launched a search to replace her. It was looking for a great spiritual leader and a standout Catholic.

Connor’s experience and successes over her 28-year career in Catholic schools stood out. She rose to the top of the list of candidates during the hiring process this past spring.

“She has taught in nearly all elementary grades in both our archdiocese and also in the Wichita diocese,” explained Dr. Kathy O’Hara, archdiocesan superintendent of schools.

And Connor’s two stints as principal of archdiocesan schools gave her some unusual opportunities to distinguish herself.

“When Ann was principal of Xavier School in Leavenworth,” said O’Hara, “there were grades housed in multiple buildings, and this required exceptional organization, team building and other skills of the principal.”

Likewise, in 2007, Connor’s skills were put to the test when she was named principal of a new school that was to be formed out of the consolidation of several schools and parishes in Wyandotte County and would become known as Resurrection Catholic School at the Cathedral.

“In this position, [Ann] essentially built the school from ‘the ground up,’ hiring a new staff and overseeing renovations of the facility,” said O’Hara. “However, since RCS is a blend of multiple parishes and schools, each with a particular cultural and ethnic background, it was critical to preserve tradition while building a new identity and a new community.

“This was not an easy task,” added O’Hara, “but Ann led the efforts gracefully and steadfastly. Today, RCS truly is ‘resurrecting’ as the result of her effort and the support of the pastors and school board and community.”

Education has long been a part of Connor’s life.

“I think that was just something I was called to do from a very early age,” she said. The new associate superintendent loves the fact that in Catholic schools, educators can help their students develop all the gifts and talents they were given.

She encourages school leaders to get to know every student and “just love them as one of God’s children.”

Once you get to know a child and build a relationship with him or her, she said, you see that child learn and excel even more than anyone could imagine.

Children have the opportunity during their years in Catholic schools to learn in a safe environment “all the things Jesus taught us,” she said. They can put those ideas into practice in a school setting now, and be ready when it’s time to go out into the world to make good decisions based on their Catholic foundation.

Connor’s isn’t a desk job, and she’s excited about what that means.

Used to going from classroom to classroom within a school, Connor most looks forward to visiting each of the 45 schools within the archdiocese and seeing the educators and students in action.

“My goal will be to be out in the schools as much as possible,” she said.

Connor also knows Catholic schools from a parent’s perspective. She and her husband Joe have four children, all of whom have attended Catholic schools. The Connors are members of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan.

Connor is excited about the school year that starts this month and for what this opportunity means for students now and in the future.

“I think that once our kids graduate, they’ve had a faith-filled education,” she said. “They’ve had opportunities to serve on a local basis and to reach out through service to the greater community.”

“They’ve been exposed to a very diverse population,” she concluded. “And they’ve gotten to know their faith through every lesson they’ve been taught.”

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