Cathedral High School in St. Cloud is a long way from the one-room school house in the northernmost “bump” of Minnesota where Paula Foley occasionally visited during her time as superintendent in the Warroad School District.
But Foley, who has been selected as the new principal of Cathedral, is no stranger to St. Cloud, having lived and worked as an educator in the area for roughly 20 years.
Cathedral’s board of directors and Catholic Community Schools announced Foley’s appointment July 30. She succeeds Lynn Grewing, who served as Cathedral’s principal for 17 years. Grewing announced her resignation in May.
“The people I have met at Cathedral are so professional and certainly have the students in mind, which is impressive,” Foley said. “I’m anxious to grow that. Lynn has done a beautiful job of leading the building and I hope to continue her legacy.”
The Cathedral board of directors formed a committee to conduct the search for the new principal. The committee was comprised of members of the corporations of both Cathedral and Catholic Community Schools, the chairs of their boards as well as board members, faculty and staff. The search committee considered Foley’s work history and her experience and identified her in the top two of eight possible candidates.
Following second interviews, the board of directors gave the final approval with Foley as their first choice.
“We are grateful for Paula’s generosity in offering her extensive experience as a teacher, a principal and a superintendent of schools to help Cathedral move into the next phase of its history,” said Father Tom Knoblach, chair of the Cathedral board. “We extend our great gratitude to Lynn Grewing for her excellent years of leadership at Cathedral and we are confident that Paula will carry on that same tradition of educating people while inspiring them to virtuous lives.”
Foley said her two immediate areas of focus are increasing enrollment and Cathedral’s building campaign, which includes breaking ground this fall for a new academic building to house technology, science, engineering, visual arts and a student commons. The new building will also include a small chapel.
“We need to put our energy into making the dream of the new Cathedral a reality. Our students deserve the best possible resources for learning as they prepare for their futures,” she said. “And always, in any school, whether public, charter or parochial, is enrollment. It is my goal to share the many positive stories about the day-to-day happenings at Cathedral. The staff, students, parents and I need to tell others about the many great things happening and opportunities available. Cathedral is a wonderful option for families and it is my role as principal to make sure the good stories are shared.”
Foley, whose parents were both teachers, grew up in Montgomery, Minnesota, a city about 45 miles south of Minneapolis. That’s also where she met her grade school and high school sweetheart, Chris. They have been married for 33 years and have three grown children.
Foley has a long history of education, getting her start in the Foley school district, and serving in numerous Minnesota schools including the St. Cloud, Warroad and Big Lake school districts as well as a number of charter schools. She was founding director for the St. Cloud Math and Science Academy Charter School.
Foley also has held positions with the Minnesota Department of Education and is a doctoral candidate at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, where she serves as an adjunct professor.
Cathedral is part of Catholic Community Schools, and Foley said she is eager to see how the schools in the system work together and to look for new ways to keep the system growing.
“Our plan is to have one school system from pre-K to grade 12,” said CCS superintendent Kevin Powers. “Having a strong high school helps our elementary schools be stronger, and having strong grade schools helps our high school be stronger.
“Cathedral is in its 134th year as a school and it has such a strong tradition and strong reputation,” he said. “We hope to keep that going for another 134 years. I know our teachers and staff are excited to work with Paula and I believe they will work well together. We are looking forward to her insight and leadership at Cathedral High School.”
Foley said this is exactly where she wants to be at this stage in her career. She also is grateful for the opportunity to be back in St. Cloud to help care for their aging parents. She and her husband are members of St. Anthony Parish in St. Cloud.
“Life has changed so it is nice to be able to be closer to them, closer to our kids and doing something that I am super passionate about,” she said. “It’s nice to be back in the community and it feels good to be able to serve the kids and families at Cathedral.”
Working for a Catholic school is a bit of switch for Foley, but she said she doesn’t think it changes who she is or how she does business.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to model Catholic values. Working in public and charter schools, instead of using words like ‘faith,’ we used words like ‘being kind’ and ‘showing compassion,’ and we talked about ethics and values. It will be nice to put the label on it and to be able to call it what it is — our faith,” she said.
Her leadership style, she said, is that she likes to be busy and is “very hands on yet very hands off.”
“I trust the people I work with but I like to be part of lots of different things. I also believe in empowering people. I’ve already met some incredible teachers who are certainly leaders in the school. I believe it is my role to support the teachers and the staff in every way I possibly can because they are the people who do the magic with our kids,” she said.
“I’m also anxious to work with student leaders and that includes not only the student council, but all students leading in different ways,” she added. “I’m excited to help them develop the capacity within themselves.”