Honored principal seeks to 'build up the body of Christ'
Vince McGovern helped turn around a struggling Our Lady of the Lake School
BY KEVIN BIRNBAUM
Our Lady of the Lake principal Vince McGovern received the 2013 Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association. Photo: Marisol Joynt
Catholic education is in Vince McGovern's blood. Several of the Philadelphia native's family members teach or work in Catholic schools, and he attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through graduate school at Seattle University.
After graduating from La Salle University in 1993, McGovern volunteered teaching sixth grade at Our Lady of Fatima School through the CHANNEL Program. He left Fatima in 2000 to serve as director of the middle school at Villa Academy, where he remained for five years. After a year as vice principal at St. Therese School, McGovern became principal of Our Lady of the Lake School in 2006.
As reported in the April 25 edition of The Progress, McGovern was one of 12 educators from around the country to receive the 2013 Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association for outstanding leadership of elementary education.
He was honored during a ceremony at the NCEA annual convention April 2–4 in Houston, Texas.
A complete turnaround
When McGovern arrived at Our Lady of the Lake, it was "very much a parish in transition," he said.
The school's enrollment had dwindled to about 150 students, he said. So McGovern worked to make the school more accessible, attractive and integral to the life of the parish.
The school tripled the amount of tuition assistance it offered to families.
McGovern "beefed up" the school's math program, added a preschool, and hired a science specialist and a full-time art and music teacher.
The parish rescheduled its weekday Masses to 8:30 a.m. so school students could attend.
"I think that reminded our parishioners that the school is very much a part of the life of the parish," McGovern said.
All these moves have helped Our Lady of the Lake's enrollment grow steadily, to 265 for the 2012–2013 school year.
"Thanks to (McGovern's) leadership, the school has completely turned around and is even in the midst of a capital campaign to build a new gym," said Father Stephen Rowan, superintendent of Catholic schools, in a release.
McGovern is quick to redirect the praise. He couldn't have done anything, he said, without the support and collaboration of a "wonderful" pastor, Father Timothy Clark; the "generous" parish community; and his "incredibly talented" school staff.
Teaching the whole child
McGovern chose a career in Catholic education not only because it was familiar and comfortable, but also because he believes in "the importance of teaching the whole child."
"So you have an emphasis on academic preparation, but there's also an awareness that the spiritual formation is very important," he said. "The physical, the emotional — all those aspects of a child are important in Catholic education."
On a recent weekend, McGovern noted, the school's second-graders received first Communion, the sixth-grade boys volleyball team competed for a CYO championship, and a group of students traveled to Seattle Prep for a robotics competition.
"So we have the spiritual formation of our second-graders, we have the physical piece with our kids heading off to the championship, (and) we have the academic piece with the robotics," he said. "When you get to see that over the course of the year in all the grade levels, it's a real joy to witness."
McGovern's greatest satisfaction as a principal is "the joy of being around kids and watching their lives unfold around me," he said.
The mission of a Catholic school is serious business, he noted.
"We're engaging families in the faith formation of their children, and partnering with parents so that we help our children become leaders and servants for the church and the world," he said.
"The vocation of a Catholic educator is to build up the body of Christ through partnering with parents and really helping our kids have that sense of connection to the church and to their faith and to God."
May 9, 2013