A Chat with Margaret Kennedy, Principal of Our Lady of Refuge Catholic School
What sort of purpose do you feel in your job and/or why do you believe your line of work is
important and meaningful?
I have found that moving from 26 years of teaching to now an
administrative role has allowed me to bring a well-rounded view of the expectations asked
of the teachers and students. I also am a parent of four, so having that experience connects
me to what our families are experiencing. I have been blessed over the years to have had
colleagues and mentors who have guided my path. The gifts of their support and wisdom
have provided me the foundation that I now bring to the table. I am fortunate to have a
career that has allowed me to make an impact on students, staff, and families in a positive
way; and also, a career that allows me to be the recipient of so much support and guidance.
The job of a good leader is to lead by example and also know when to seek support. I feel I
have done and do both!
What is the most exciting part of your day-to-day work?
Walking into the classrooms and spending time with our teachers and students is the best part of my day. I am blessed with an amazing faculty and staff. Seeing how much our students are engaged with the lessons and activities their teachers have planned and implemented is what I find exciting and rewarding. It has been very tough over the last two years to have those personal connections so limited between the teachers/staff and students. Seeing the students and teachers making real connections truly brings me happiness.
What do you think the future of your industry looks like, let's say in 15 years? What
impact will it be making? How will it be different from what you do now?
I am a little nervous at what the next 15 years may look like in education. The shift to online learning, although needed initially, has hit education hard. Our families and the faculty/staff have had to reconfigure what a “school day” looks like. Many experienced educators and administrators have left the field as a result. I know for me, trying to keep up on the ever-changing health protocols and safety guidelines have not allowed as much time for staff development or parent educational opportunities. Of course, it is essential that we are
doing all we can do keep our families well informed and healthy, but I am hoping that as
we begin to return to a more normal school/education environment, we can find the
support for the teachers and administrators, who in turn will be there to support our
students and families.
When did you decide you wanted to enter this field? What steps did you take to make that
decision a reality?
My career path to principal first started as a desire to be a teacher. My
first-grade teacher at Cubberley, Miss Monica McCarthy, probably had the biggest impact
on me. As I moved up the grade levels, Miss McCarthy would let me come back and tutor
her students. By the time I graduated from Cubberley, I had some great “teaching”
experiences in her classroom. I learned so much from her example. Also, I was fortunate to
attend both Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach. These institutions have
highly regarded early childhood and teacher education/admin. programs that allowed me
to move smoothly from one campus/program to the other.
For any students, age 12-18 who thinks your job sounds interesting, what advice would you
give them to help them learn/train/explore your field?
I would suggest they volunteer at schools, park programs, day camps, etc. Having them spend some time with children and parents is very beneficial. Also, it allows them to see what a good leader/administrator does well. I was very fortunate to watch and learn from professionals who were excellent administrators because they had a strong foundation in education first. I believe that a school principal benefits from having time in the classroom; I know it has helped me considerably.
Are there any organizations, communities, or movements that create synergy between you
and others in your field, here in the city of Long Beach?
Because I am in a Catholic school, we have a smaller “pool” of people to connect with. Having said that, the neighboring Catholic school principals collaborate on many things; there is a spirit of support and camaraderie among all of us that I have found very helpful.
What make Long Beach a great place to live and work as it relates to your industry?
It has “small town” vibe! Over the years, I have been blessed to work with several of my former students. I guarantee wherever you look for careers, you or someone in your family will
have a personal connection to it. I have found that those Long Beach connections have
helped pave the way for so many in whatever career/educational path they are on.