St. Richard, St. Aloysius introduce new principals

Vicksburg St. Aloysius High School and Jackson St. Richard Elementary School will have new principals when classes start this fall.
Dr. Buddy Strickland will take over at St. Aloysius and Cathy Wilson will lead St. Richard. Strickland has more than 40 years of educational experience in Mississippi, most of it in the public school system, as a teacher and principal on the elementary and secondary school levels. He has also taught at Delta State University. He retired and later went back to lead a private academy in Indianola.
He was living in Vicksburg and began substitute teaching at both St. Francis Xavier and St. Aloysius. His experience landed him on the search committee for a new principal.
He said as the committee’s work proceeded he began to feel called to submit his own name for the position. “This happened after a lot of thoughtful prayer. I felt like if God opened the door I would walk through. If not, I could walk away with peace,” said Strickland. “I have this opportunity at this time in my life to serve,” he added.
Strickland felt inspired by the students he was teaching as a substitute. “Catholic education in Vicksburg preceded public education. We have been here for more than 150 years. I want to take that tradition of excellence and build on it,” he said. Father Tom Lalor, the school’s canonical administrator, enthusiastically welcomed Strickland in an email sent to the school community.
The letter started by listing Strickland’s experience. “More important than the above experience, however, are the personal and professional qualities that Dr. Strickland brings to the position. He is passionate about students and their learning and achievement. He is focused on maintaining and building on the strong community of staff, students and parents,” he wrote.
Service is one of the benchmarks of Catholic education and Strickland said he is impressed by what the students at St. Aloysius are already doing. He said he was substituting a theology class when the students started talking about service. He was moved by their understanding of the connection between service and the gospel. “Every child, when they perform service, is walking in the footsteps of Christ,” he explained. Two of his grandchildren attend the school and his daughter has served on the advisory council.
He said he takes a collaborative approach to leadership. “I can’t do anything without the support of the teachers and parents,” said Strickland.
He takes cues from a book used in the corporate world called “From Good to Great.” “I want to make clear I am not a caretaker. We need to develop a clear plan to go forward,” he said. He asked for prayers as he takes on his new role.
He and his wife have four children. He is a member of St. Michael Parish, his wife is a member of the Orthodox church in Vicksburg.
St. Richard’s new principal is an alumna of Vicksburg Catholic Schools.
Wilson has almost 20 years of educational experience including time as a teacher, band director and administrator. In an email to the school community, the search committee for St. Richard explained why she became the best choice for the school. “We are impressed with her knowledge of curriculum and her passion for teaching and for her students. She has a wealth of experience in and out of the classroom as well as a solid understanding of what a school needs to be successful. We know you will be just as impressed as we are with Ms. Wilson’s enthusiasm, dedication, and strong commitment to Catholic Education,” read the email.
Wilson said the opportunity to apply for the job at St. Richard was a pleasant surprise. “I am looking forward to hitting the ground running,” she said. “Catholic schools are unique in that many offer smaller, more personalized learning environments and you don’t have to avoid talking about God” said Wilson. “The church is our cornerstone – the school is an outgrowth of the church,” she added.
She also emphasizes teamwork as a model for school management, capitalizing on the strengths of teachers, staff, parents and even students to build a strong community.
Wilson wasted no time getting involved in the St. Richard community. Even though she does not report to work until later this year, she attended the school’s Flight to the Finish 5K fund-raiser, even helping hand out medals to the students. She was set to attend a reception to meet parents the week of May 10 and was opening doors at carpool to meet her new students Monday, May 11. She said she likes to spend time getting to know the gifts and resources her teachers, parents and students offer to the whole school.
She is excited about working with the special kids at St. Richard, the only school in the diocese with a dedicated program for children with special needs and developmental delays. “These kids are your heartbeat in a school. They have so much to give, they just need an opportunity. All kids have the ability to learn, they just learn differently so you have to find a way to meet that need,” she said. Wilson said one of her favorite parts of her job is the ‘lightbulb moment’ when a child comprehends a lesson.
Madison St. Anthony School announced earlier this spring that Jim Bell will become principal there later this year. Bell, a Massachusetts native, was profiled in an earlier edition of Mississippi Catholic.
Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic (Schools) Education, said she is delighted to have all three new administrators in place before the close of the school year. The process of getting the right person for each place was filled with prayer, research and lots of work on the part of advisory committees, staff and pastors. “I am thrilled to welcome these three individuals into our community of Catholic educational leadership here in the Diocese of Jackson,” she said.
All three new principals will start in July.