SALEM - St. Paul School opens today with new principal Rebecca Carey at the helm, an Erie, Pa. native whose experience in Catholic education began as a young student, continued as a teacher and continues still as an administrator.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity," she said during an interview earlier this week.
Carey spent the past two years as principal of Our Lady's Christian School, a large Catholic school serving preschool through eighth grade in Erie, where she had her own marketing director and several other administrative staff members.
Wanting something different and challenging, she saw the opening for St. Paul School and decided to go for it, explaining the fact that it was the only Catholic school in the area and was preschool through sixth grade made it interesting.
She also said she liked the teachers and liked what was going on at the school. She said there's a chance for growth and she was exited about the opportunities it presented.
"This is a small school where you wear all of the hats," she said. "I just thought it was a wonderful opportunity."
She said it's been a good start to the school year. Her first day was July 1 and she's been getting to know people, adding she likes the small town atmosphere.
"Everyone has been very welcoming and supportive," she said.
Carey spent some time with her predecessor, Patricia Bauman, who retired at the end of the last school year. She said Bauman mentored her a great deal, teaching her about the expectations here and how things are done here, which is a little different than how things are done in Pennsylvania. She even found out she had a connection to St. Paul School and didn't realize it.
Former St. Paul School Principal Carolyn Hammer worked in the Diocese of Erie while Carey was a teacher and they knew each other.
Born and raised in Erie, Carey completed first through eighth grade at St. George Catholic School and graduated from a public high school known as Tech Memorial. She earned a bachelor's degree in education from Villa Maria College in Erie, now part of Gannon University, teaching her junior and senior year in a Catholic school in exchange for the Villa Maria funding her education.
She earned a master's degree in biology from Gannon University and a Master's of Education in school administration from Edinboro University. She taught in Catholic schools in Erie and lived seven years in Virginia where she taught third grade at the Congressional School of Virginia in Falls Church, Va. and served as assistant principal at St. Luke School in McLean, Va. She's been in education for 34 years.
A widow who lost her husband two years ago, she moved back home to Erie to help care for her ailing father and got the job as principal at Our Lady's Christian School. Her sister recently took a job in Ohio, so she followed her to the Buckeye state. She's currently commuting from Erie, but is looking for a home closer to the area.
The dynamics of Catholic education are changing, but Carey said,"I feel we have a very strong school and offer a great education."
What's different is the strong religious Catholic formation for the students, along with the excellent education. She's met with the new principal at Buckeye Elementary School in Salem, John Lundin, and said Salem schools have a good reputation, noting the two districts work hand-in-hand. She said it's also exciting that the two entities recognize each other's value and the fact that each can have a place in education in Salem.
Something different that she's noticed from her previous experiences is the interaction of the school with the community. She said it's important to support local businesses and what's going on in the community. She also mentioned the good relationship the school has with its next door neighbor, the Salem Public Library.
St. Paul School will have some new teachers, besides a new principal, with a new computer/art teacher and new preschool teacher. The search is still on for a math teacher for grades four, five and six.
"We're looking to expand and increase our use of technology," Carey said.
Students will start the year with iPads in their classrooms which Bauman was instrumental in getting, with the tablet style computers to be utilized in all grades, including kindergarten and possibly preschool.
"We are looking to improve and enhance our religious practices and formation and our prayer life," she said.
She's also planning to have retreats for all grades.
"I'm very excited about the future," she said.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org