The New Kids on the Block: Principals Share Goals for Success

| April 16, 2015
Photo of Jennifer Petosa

Jennifer Petosa

BY PAT SHEA

In September, Jennifer Petosa and Lee Brenner were sent to the principal’s office to begin a new phase of their careers. Petosa is the new principal at Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse, and Lee Brenner is the new principal at Holy Family School in Norwich, New York. Both women have impressive teaching and administrative skills and are beginning efforts not only to grow enrollment at the two diocesan schools but also to help support a faith-filled environment for their students and school communities.

“Let Go and Let God”

Jennifer Petosa, a parishoner at Holy Family Parish in Fairmount, spent 28 years in the Rochester public school district. She has worked in a variety of teaching and leader­ship positions that included being a mentor for new teachers coming into the district and providing support to veteran teachers adapting to new procedures and curriculum. Petosa was also a faith formation teacher in Pittsford.

“I grew up Catholic,” explained Petosa. “I went to St. Joseph’s Elementary School and then Notre Dame High School in Batavia, and I think, looking back, Catholic school helped prepare me spiritually for life’s challenges as an adult.”

Petosa had plans at some point to leave the Rochester school district but the timing never seemed right. “Each time I thought it was time to leave the district another door would open with a different position. Many of these schools were poor and working with them became a mission for me,” explained Petosa. But five years ago, Petosa, who was a single parent with two children, met and married a man with three children from Camillus, New York, and quickly found herself not only part of a new blended family but part of a new city.

“Once I knew I was moving to Syracuse, I kept thinking how much I wanted to be a Catholic school principal,” said Petosa. She had received her administration certification from SUNY Brockport and began searching for an academic job that would utilize her skills. Instead, a position at Crouse Hospital opened up and Petosa took the job.

“I loved my job at the hospital,” explained Petosa. “I wasn’t aggressively searching for a new job, but I continued to read the classifieds— I guess just being nosy. One day I saw that Most Holy Rosary was searching for a principal, and I applied thinking it would take a few years to get my resume across the right desk and get the right position in the diocese.”

Instead, Petosa was surprised to receive an interview. “It was like divine intervention on steroids,” said Petosa. “Everything moved quickly because the timing was right and [the job offer] just came together. My mantra has always been, ‘Let go and let God,’ and I asked God to use me where I was needed most. When I was offered the position at Most Holy Rosary I knew God was placing me exactly where I was meant to be. I love what a special place this is. The school building itself is beautiful and everyone in the community is connected somehow either to the school or the parish. Every day I come to work I think how lucky I am to have a job where I start and end my day with prayer, attend Mass and deepen my faith. I’m so excited to be here.”

Photo of Lee Brenner

Lee Brenner

Building On A Strong Faith Foundation

In Norwich, Holy Family School Principal Lee Brenner, a recent transplant from Buffalo, New York, is enjoying the change of the seasons. Brenner, who has been a school administrator for the past ten years, sent out an email to the parents of the 149 students in grades Pre-K through Grade 8, commenting on the beauty of the area. “It’s a very pretty time of year here,” said Brenner.

Brenner, who has more than 25 years of teaching experience and who has worked in both public and private elementary, middle and high schools in the Buffalo area, is glad to be working once again in a Catholic school.

I was raised my whole life as a Catholic and even attended a Catholic college in Cleveland, Ohio,” explained Brenner. “I started teaching in Catholic school, and it’s always been something very close to my heart. I love that I get to speak about my faith and about Jesus in my job. It’s not something that many people get to do in their workplace.”

Brenner has enjoyed getting to know the staff, students and parents of Holy Family School, which is the only Catholic school within a 55-mile radius of Norwich, New York. “It’s a thriving school and integral part of the community,” said Brenner. “Some of the staff has been together for ten years or longer, and everyone gets along well and supports each other.”

Looking toward the school’s future, Brenner’s goal is to find more space to expand the school’s internal programs, especially for the older children. “We are very crunched,” said Brenner. “But our goal is to continue to grow in a Christ-like manner and be faith-focused as we continue to achieve high academics. The challenge is we don’t have a big staff here, and we all need to wear a lot of hats to help the children. But we have a great school, and our teachers are focused on giving the students a good quality education with a strong emphasis on our faith. Given what our students are facing out in the world today and what they will face in the future, we are thankful that we can provide them with a strong faith foundation to build upon for years to come.”

Pat Shea is the associate editor of The Catholic Sun.

Category: Featured, Quality

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