Local Schools

Good Shepherd named School of Distinction

From left, Cognia advisory council member Robyn Fall, Good Shepherd School principal Ann McGuff and Good Shepherd teachers Sarah Swearngin, Staci Reuter and Rachel Wagner gather around the Cognia School of Distinction award. COURTESY PHOTO

by Moira Cullings

SHAWNEE — Ann McGuff has always known Good Shepherd School here is exceptional.

Now, the principal of 20 years has another piece of evidence to prove it.

Good Shepherd was one of just 33 schools and systems out of 50 states and 90 countries that was recognized as a Cognia School of Distinction for the 2022-23 school year.

Out of all the awards the school has received over the years, McGuff said this one is “huge.”

“You look at the list, and there’s schools in Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” she said. “All of a sudden you see Shawnee, Kansas.

“We were really excited. It’s definitely an honor.”

Cognia is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools both in the United States and internationally.

It conducted approximately 1,100 accreditation engagement reviews during the 2022-23 school year.

According to a Sept. 12 press release announcing the School of Distinction winners, “Institutions were evaluated and provided evidence of growth in learning, a healthy culture for learning, engaging and high-quality instructional environments and effective leadership for learning.”

Each school and system chosen has a defined mission, vision and belief system, which it is successfully implementing.

Other criteria include excellent academic performance and commitment to improving the student learning experience through continuous growth and innovation.

According to McGuff, it’s the various elements of this honor that make it special.

“This award’s not just academic,” she said, “because we do very well academically. But it also tells us that we’re living our mission, which is our faith that means so much to us.”

Vince Cascone, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, was excited but not surprised when he heard about the achievement.

“Good Shepherd has an outstanding academic program that stands out among the best in the country,” he said. “Although this is certainly true, it only tells one part of the story.

“The mission of Good Shepherd is to provide ‘a Catholic education inspiring all members of the school community to live, learn and love as Jesus taught.’

“The academic awards and recognition, as wonderful as they are, are simply the icing on the cake.”

Father Kent O’Connor, pastor of Good Shepherd, was also ecstatic about the honor.

“I know that we have an excellent school,” he said, “but it is pretty wonderful that we got this international distinction.

“I am very proud of our principal, our staff, our parents and our students.”

Father O’Connor believes that community is what makes Good Shepherd unique.

“Our staff is amazing and extremely dedicated,” he said. “Our principal, Ann McGuff, is particularly spectacular and deeply cares about our teachers and our students. Our parents are supportive of the mission.

“This is a great recipe for success.”

For McGuff, the recognition is “a step toward even greater achievements.”

“I think it serves as a great motivator for the students and staff to know that our work that we’re putting in is exceeding high standards,” she said.

She also hoped Good Shepherd parents would “have that continued confidence that we’re providing top-quality education for the kiddos in a strong faith-filled environment.

“I hope this shows how hard my staff and my kiddos work.”

To learn more about the School of Distinction honor, click here.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

Leave a Comment