Schools - February 2, 2011

St. Raymond principal to leave, but not without a few suggestions

by Miranda Simon

'I'm not exactly a spring chicken," said Sister Ann Bernard the day after she announced she planned to leave St. Raymond, a Catholic K-8 school in Menlo Park, where she has served as principal for 16 years.

Sister Bernard is 72 years old and has been in the education field for 52 of them. She was the assistant superintendent at the Diocese of San Jose before she became principal at St. Raymond.

Still, when she announced Jan. 25 that she would leave at the end of the academic year, she didn't mean retirement.

"Oh, good heavens, no," she said. "It's just a case of stopping what I'm doing and take a little bit of time off."

Sister Bernard plans to take a sabbatical of six months to a year and then return to education.

"Some of it will be personal time, some will be spiritual development and travel. Possibly a trip to Alaska," she said.

She has a few job prospects lined up for when she returns but declined to name them during the transition.

Meanwhile, the interview process for a new principal at St. Raymond has already begun.

Sister Bernard said she is happy to have some new blood at St. Raymond. "The school is in very fine condition physically and academically but someone needs to come in with a new vision," she said.

And she is willing to offer up a few suggestions.

The new principal should "keep the 21st century child in mind and make better use of technology" but, at the same time, she said, kids should be allowed to slow down and dream a little.

"Parents have them on the fast track. They just need some down time to be quiet and peaceful and maybe read a book," she said. "Smell the roses."

She said she attempted to bring about a slower pace when she was in charge, but encountered resistance, mostly from the parents.

"When both parents are working, it does create a safety net when (children) have a sport lesson, a piano lesson" after school, she said.

Her educational philosophy has not always been the same, however. She remembers when technology started making its way into classrooms and the initial reticence she felt toward using electronic whiteboards and computers as teaching instruments.

"Technology began to stick its head up and now we can see the true value that the computer has for the education of the children," she said. "As an older person there is always a fear of the unknown and seeing the lack of fear in the children was encouraging."

Father William Myers, pastor of St. Raymond Catholic Church, is leading the search, interview and selection process for a new principal. In its announcement, the school said it plans to name a new principal in the spring.


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