During her 28 years as principal, students, parents and teachers at St. Mary-Basha Catholic School have learned to rely on the leadership of Sr. Mary Norbert Long, SC.
On May 25, the school community will bid farewell to the longtime principal as she takes on a new role in her religious community, the Sisters of Charity, in Greensburg, Penn.
Sr. Mary Norbert was elected first councilor of the community in March. Fr. Daniel McBride, pastor of St. Mary Parish, broke the news to parents in a letter, informing them that she would finish the school year, then assume her new position in Pennsylvania.
“I will immediately begin a search for someone to be principal, not to replace her,” Fr. McBride wrote. “No one could possibly replace the great work she has done here. We would not be the highly effective school we are without her tireless and strong leadership.”
Michelle McCarthy, who has taught language arts at St. Mary-Basha since 1994, sent all five of her children — including a set of triplets — to the school and said Sr. Mary Norbert has been a driving force in her life.
“She knows how to drive, motivate, and initiate change in people,” McCarthy said. “She has high expectations for her students, her staff, and her teachers — that is why our school is an amazing community.”
McCarthy said Sr. Mary Norbert often helped her and her husband when their triplets were born.
“We are connected, committed, and truly Catholic because Sr. Mary Norbert is the head and the heart of this community,” McCarthy said. “She will be dearly missed.”
When she took on leadership of St. Mary-Basha in 1984, the school, with fewer than 100 students, was on the verge of closing. Sr. Mary Norbert set a goal of five years, agreeing to recommend closure if the school couldn’t be saved within that time frame.
She met with teachers, parents and students and formulated a plan based on their recommendations. Within three years, there was remarkable improvement. Enrollment peaked at 532 students during 2002-2004 and is still high at 481. In the mid-1990s, parents were camping out in line for two nights just to be able to enroll their children.
Though there have been many highlights through the years, Sr. Mary Norbert said one of the best achievements was the 1993-1994 Blue Ribbon School Award.
“We were acknowledged not just by the Western Catholic Education Association, not just the North Central Association, but also acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education, that we were doing a great job,” Sr. Mary Norbert said. “And that’s something that can never be taken away. There’s a standard we have to continually maintain.”
She’s also pleased at the results of an evaluation by a visiting committee during the past year, which found the school to be highly effective in 12 different areas. She said those findings influenced her decision to open a new chapter in her life by becoming first councilor and relocating to Pennsylvania.
“I’m looking back 28 years ago at where the school was and I’m leaving the school and passing it on to somebody else in pretty good standing,” she said. “They don’t have to have the multiple struggles that I had over the years.”
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Farewell, Sr. Mary Norbert
Mass to honor Sr. Mary Norbert will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 8 and will be followed by a reception. She will also be available from 8 to 11:30 a.m. May 20 in Hurtado Hall during a meet-and-greet reception. For more information, call the school office at (480) 963-4951.