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Archives New principals look back on first months of school
The joys of leading faith-filled schools

Jan. 31, 2018

By Mary Lou Kilian

With a semester behind them, two of the new principals serving diocesan Catholic schools shared some of the Margreyjoys and challenges of their work.

Mary Ann Margrey had been a teacher at Augustinian Academy in Carthage for nearly four decades and succeeded St. Joseph Sister Annunciata Collins as principal in September.

The best part of her new job, she said, has been the students and staff.

“I love being able to greet them by name, encourage them to do their best, share in their successes and comfort them when things do not go so well,” she said. “Even though as a teacher I was able to do this, being principal makes it a more rewarding experience.”

Michelle Lallier, new principal at St. James in Gouverneur, said she enjoys “being in a faith-filled school with the students.

“Watching them grow in their faith and grow in their education is such a blessing,” she said.

The challenges the two new principals face are similar.

“The greatest challenge is finding the balance between the ‘office responsibilities’ and the time I can spend with the staff and students,” Mrs. Margrey said. “It becomes necessary to just walk away from the office to be present with the children.”

Mrs. Lallier has also found it difficult to spend enough time with the children.

Lallier“Just having enough time to be in each classroom during the week,” has been a challenge, she said. “I like to stop in the classrooms as much as possible to see the students and teachers. This isn't always possible.
Were the principals surprised by what they encountered in their new positions?

“My greatest surprise is the joy I experience in this position,” Mrs. Margrey said. “Having been in the classroom for 39 years, I wondered about this transition to principal and how I would miss teaching.  You do not stop teaching, it just takes a different form.”

Mrs. Lallier said she did not expect “the amount of reports and paperwork that need to be done to run the school.

“But also, the amount of love and joy I witness every day is a pleasant surprise,” she said.

An important responsibility of any principal is to encourage parents to enroll their children in the school.

The message Mrs. Margrey has for parents in the Carthage area is that “Augustinian Academy has been a large part of my family for 40 years.  Since 1885, our school has blended faith, family, and service to provide a Catholic education to meet the individual needs of each student. 

“You sense the feeling of family when you walk through the doors,” she said.

About St. James, Mrs. Lallier said, “I feel we are able to give each student personal attention to their academic, spiritual and character needs. We provide one-on-one time with the students and watch out for them as if they were our own children.

“We also partner with the parents to provide a team that works for the best of the child,” she said. “We prepare them for not only what lies ahead academically when they move on to the middle and high school years, but also we prepare them and nurture them in their personal relationship with Christ.”

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