Local Schools

New associate superintendent takes to the road to build relationships

Lorenzo Rizzi is the new associate superintendent for archdiocesan Catholic schools. Since August, he’s visited almost 30 of the 42 archdiocesan schools in order to learn their needs. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Lorenzo Rizzi’s official title is associate superintendent for student services, but he legitimately could tack on another: Road Warrior.

Since late August, he’s made it his mission to visit all 42 Catholic schools in the archdiocese. So far, he’s been to almost 30.

Consequently, his office chair at the chancery in Kansas City, Kansas, isn’t getting much wear.

Why is he doing it?

“So I can build relationships and get to know the needs of the schools,” said Rizzi.

During his 32-year career in education, he’s been in both public and Catholic schools. While public schools share certain commonalities, Catholic schools more closely reflect their communities.

“In our schools, the commonality is our faith, but other than that, they’re truly meeting the needs of their communities,” said Rizzi. “What they need is completely different for each school, which is great. For me, it’s a big learning curve to know it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Catholic schools fit their communities.”

During his 32-year career in education, Lorenzo Rizzi has been in both public and Catholic schools. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

He became associate superintendent on July 1, succeeding Karen Kroh, who left to become superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Rizzi, 54, was born in Bellevue, Nebraska, but was raised in Belton, Missouri. He’s a lifelong Catholic. He’s been married to his wife Dawn for 27 years and they have four children: two are in college; one is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park; and one is in eighth grade at St. Michael the Archangel School in Leawood. The Rizzi family belongs to St. Michael.

Prior to becoming associate superintendent, Rizzi was principal of St. Michael the Archangel School, which is one of the largest kindergarten to eighth grade schools in the archdiocese.

He was also principal at Holy Name School in Kansas City, Kansas. He has taught and administered schools at the elementary and secondary levels, and worked as a coach, special education teacher, principal and administrator.

Lorenzo Rizzi’s mother, a teacher, inspired him to go into education, and one of her students inspired him to work in special education. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

He has both master’s and specialist’s degrees in educational administration, and a doctorate in educational leadership.

In his new role, Rizzi works to help provide services for special-needs students in archdiocesan schools and to support the schools in every aspect relating to special needs. Also, he works with the schools in the areas of social and emotional aspects of student well-being, and physical health.

Rizzi was inspired to go into education by his mother, who was a teacher, and further inspired to work in special education by one of his mother’s students.

“I was exposed to one particular girl who had multiple disabilities,” said Rizzi. “She was truly inspiring. She had difficulty even communicating, but her heart was so evident and her spirit — you could see the Lord living in her and the joy she had.”

“All students can learn but we have to provide an environment so that can happen,” said Rizzi. “We can learn a great deal from [students with special needs].”

“I think it’s a very important responsibility we have as Catholic schools to accept students with special needs,” said Vince Cascone, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. “We want to make sure that we’re accepting those who are most vulnerable and most in need of our Catholic faith and our Catholic schools.”

That is why Cascone chose Rizzi.

“He’s a faith-filled man who is dedicated to the Catholic Church, Catholic education and the students with special needs,” said Cascone.

Lorenzo Rizzi and the archdiocesan school staff hope to help Catholic schools in northeast Kansas provide services for students with special needs. PHOTO BY TAYLOR FLOWE/UNSPLASH

Educators usually wear many hats, and one of the hats that Rizzi wears says “Coach.”

He loves sports. He’s been involved with football, wrestling and track for years. Currently, he’s head freshman football coach for the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints, and he’s also a volunteer wrestling coach for the school.

As much as he can, he tries to be involved in his parish. He and Dawn are sponsoring people now going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as they prepare to enter the church next Easter.

And there’s one more hat — a cowboy hat.

Rizzi is a big horse enthusiast. He has owned Dandy, a 20-year-old mare, for the past four years. He owned another horse previously. Dandy is boarded at a stable not far from his home and he sees her almost every day, riding her about three times a week.

“There’s always relationship-building [with a horse],” he said.

He learned about that from his first horse, who wasn’t broken when he got him.

“They have to trust you before you get on their back. I learned that the hard way,” said Rizzi. “It’s important to be calm around big animals. It forces you to let things go.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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