Superintendent of Catholic schools Leisa Schulz has announced plans to retire following the current academic year. Schulz, who has been a Catholic educator for four decades, has led the Office of Catholic Schools for 23 years.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz has appointed Dr. Mary Beth Bowling as the next superintendent of Catholic schools, effective July 1, 2021.
Bowling has served in the archdiocese for 39 years. For more than 30 years, she was a teacher and principal. Since 2014, she has served the Catholic schools’ office as the assistant superintendent.
During a recent interview, Schulz characterized her time as a Catholic educator and leader as a “joy” — from the first moment as a new teacher to now, as she and her staff navigate the challenges of operating a school system in the midst of a pandemic.
“Even in the midst of challenges, to wake up in the morning and know that God has called me to come and work and serve with Catholic school leaders in this community is just a wonderful gift,” she said.
Among the things she is most proud of in her time at the helm of Catholic schools is the continued focus on the formation of academic excellence and the emphasis on Catholic identity in each school.
“Our schools just continue to form and educate students at such a high level and I’m very proud of that,” she said.
Schulz began her vocation as a Catholic educator in 1980 with her first teaching position at St. Rita School, a position she held for five years. From 1985 to 1990, she served as principal of the former St. Columba School. She then led the former Mother of Good Counsel School as principal from 1990 to 1994. In 1994, she took on the role of elementary curriculum coordinator at the archdiocesan level, a position she held for two years. From 1996 to 1998, she served as assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent in 1998.
In every role, she said, she has always kept the mission of Catholic schools — to form the whole student: body, mind and soul in the Catholic faith — in the forefront of her mind.
Following her retirement, Schulz said she and her husband, Bill, would like to travel and simply spend time with one another.
“I love my position; it’s such a joy. But, the amount of time, level of presence and responsibility that’s there is something that I’ve always been aware of,” she said. “I’m looking forward to us being able to gear down to a different pace. I know I’ll still be active, I just don’t know exactly what it will look like.”
Archbishop Kurtz commended Schulz for her years of leadership and said she has helped to promote the “Catholic identity, in the fullest sense of the word, in each Catholic school” in the archdiocese.
“Leisa, first of all, is such a genuinely good human. She always shows concern for the person, and she has managed to do that for a whole school system,” he said in an interview last week.
The archbishop said Bowling will bring a wealth of knowledge to her new role, particularly her administrative experience.
“She will also bring a creative enthusiasm to the challenges and opportunities she will encounter,” he said.
Bowling said she and Schulz have worked closely together for the last six years. In that time, she said, she has been able to see Leisa’s care and devotion to Catholic education up close and feels prepared to now take on the role.
“I’m honored that the archbishop appointed me to this role. I certainly take that very seriously and want to serve our diocese in the best way I can as we move forward,” she said.
Bowling began her teaching career at St. Bartholomew School where she served first as a teacher then later as principal. She was principal of St. James, St. Patrick and Sacred Heart Model schools, too, before becoming assistant superintendent in 2014. She holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Spalding University.
Bowling said her passion for the mission of Catholic schools guides her work and said she has an “intrinsic desire to contribute to that mission.”
“I love kids, working with kids, supporting their growth and development. In every position I’ve held, I’ve always been able to do that. I want schools to serve kids well, every kid,” she said.
Bowling noted other changes to occur in the schools’ office. In addition to searching for a new assistant superintendent, there are two other positions to fill. Tosh Scheps, the curriculum and instruction coordinator, will leave his position in 2021 to pursue law school. And, the school planning and professional learning coordinator position will need to be filled following the retirement of Terry Crawley.
The Office of Catholic Schools shepherds nearly 19,000 students in 49 Catholic schools located in seven counties of the archdiocese.