Monday, August 11, 2008

Diocese Hires New Associate Superintendent

The following article appears in the next issue of The Catholic Key

Career in Catholic education has been Holy Spirit directed

'It all boils down to bringing children to Christ'

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY - Sheri Dishong moved to Kansas City from Nebraska just a year ago to assume the principalship of St. Peter School. But she feels at home.

The new associate superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is quick to credit the Holy Spirit as the driving force behind her career in Catholic education.

"Education is my second career," Dishong said. She grew up in Valley, Neb., a small community right outside Omaha. After earning a degree in recreational therapy, she moved to Lincoln, and worked in nursing homes. After her son was born, she decided to remain at home with her daughter and new baby until they both were in school.

"Then I went back to school," she said. "I received my teaching certification from Nebraska Wesleyan University. I taught 10 years in the Diocese of Lincoln, and received my administration certification from Doane College."

She served as a school principal for three years in Lincoln and then decided to network other dioceses. "Honestly, I think the Holy Spirit was at work," Dishong said. "And that's not said flippantly. I had been networking in Kansas, and had gone to a couple of interviews. Then a friend told me about the principal opening at St. Peter's. So I contacted them and was fortunate enough to be offered the position."

During her term as principal at St. Peter's, Dishong met and got to know the newly-named diocesan Superintendent of Schools, Marlon De La Torre. "The more I got to know about the direction Marlon and Bishop Finn are taking with Catholic education, the more I got excited about possibly being a part of it. When the associate superintendent position opened up, the Holy Spirit was directing me again. It started with a conversation and ended with my getting the job."
Dishong is impressed with the professional development programs offered to principals and teachers in the Diocese, as well as the academics offered to children in the schools.

"It's all good," she said, "and if we continue to integrate faith into the academic program, it'll be a win-win situation. It all boils down to bringing children to Christ. That's what Catholic education is all about."

Dishong and co-associate superintendent Pat Burbach oversee the schools in their "pods;" in Dishong's case, the Southeast Pod and the Northland Catholic Schools, a total of 12 schools.

"I want to get to know the principals and the schools I'll be working for. I'll be working with federal programs, title monies, curriculum mapping. I plan to do more than just classroom walkthroughs. I want to take it step-by-step; you have to do it that way: get to know the teachers and the kids."

She also is very interested in the growth of inclusive education in the schools and plans to work more closely with F.I.R.E, the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education which grants funds to help schools pay for paraprofessionals and equipment so special needs children can attend Catholic schools with their siblings and peers.

Dishong's daughter, a 4th generation teacher, recently welcomed her first class of first graders. "She called me that night and said, 'Mom, what if I make mistakes?' I said, 'You will. But that's how you learn. Challenges help you grow.'"

Dishong said she was amazed at how quickly she grew to like Kansas City. "I went on vacation a few weeks ago, and when I got back, my first thought was 'It's good to be home.'"