HomeCommunity NewsFSHA Voices Admiration for Departing Leader

FSHA Voices Admiration for Departing Leader

Sister Carolyn McCormack is retiring after serving two decades as Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s president. She is pictured with FSHA board chair Sarah Sima McCann. — Photo courtesy John Dlugolecki

After spending 21 years as Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s president, Sister Carolyn McCormack is closing the book and saying her goodbyes.
“What a privilege to be able to have an opportunity to look back on good work that was done over a 21-year period and the great joy of feeling that our school is stronger,” said the Dominican sister, who will step down from her role and begin a sabbatical while a new leader joins FSHA.
Before being appointed president of the girls’ school overlooking La Cañada Flintridge, McCormack served as an elementary and high school teacher and principal. She began teaching at St. James School in San Francisco in 1969.
Now, she revisits the highlights from her time at FSHA, including new programs and building updates for the students’ benefit — like a new facility for the arts department and classroom renovations — but also the relationships that she has built in the community.
Focusing on the Catholic school’s mission has also been an important goal of hers, too: the school strives to prepare women for lives of faith, integrity and truth — a common refrain among FSHA leaders.
Taking McCormack’s place is Marlena Conroy, who will make school history as the first lay president when she helms the position on July 1. Conroy is coming from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, where she served as principal.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of incredible Dominican sisters to serve the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy,” said Conroy. “As a Catholic educator for 23 years, my life’s mission is to provide young women with a well-rounded education that empowers them to be a force for good in the world. I am dedicated to providing FSHA students with an exceptional education in an inclusive environment.”
Although the view from the school is breathtaking, McCormack said that what she’ll miss the most are the people, especially the bright young students.
“I’ll miss the energy, the spirit, the youthfulness and kindness in them, particularly the boarding girls. … They’re a part of our life,” said McCormack, referring to those students who reside at the school. “I will really miss the students. I will miss this amazing community of families.”
But she added that she is excited for the school to have a new leader.
McCormack said that she plans to take a yearlong sabbatical and do things she loves to do, like spending time publishing a book of prayers and taking a trip to Ireland.
“It’s sad to think of not being here,” said McCormack. “I can’t imagine what it will be like to not be in this space and have the energy of these people in my life.” She thanked the community, faculty and staff for their ongoing support during her time at FSHA.
FSHA board chair Sarah Sima McCann said she will miss McCormack’s joyful, boundless energy.
“She is devoted to the school’s mission and its Catholic tradition: identity and empowerment of young women, a prestigious educational experience that really develops young women for a life of integrity, faith and truth,” said McCann.
McCann also said McCormack is unafraid of change and likes to roll up her sleeves and join in on the work.
“She sees every challenge as an opportunity to do better, to be better,” said McCann. “She is inspiring to me. She is an energizer bunny, and I will miss my partnership and friendship with her over the years.”
She added, “I hope that she finds a new and renewed path of what her work and life will look like, because her identity is rooted here.”
McCann, who is in her sixth year as board chair, is a FSHA graduate herself and is a parent of twins who are juniors at the school, “so I grew up in this community.”
Rebecca Bostic, who also made school history when she became the first lay principal of FSHA about a year ago, has savored her time with McCormack.
“She has really served as a mentor to me,” said Bostic. “The first day on the job, she gave me a book called ‘Leadership.’ She has been very clear with me from day one, that growing and leadership [are] a study, and she doesn’t demand perfection, but she does demand thoughtfulness.”
Bostic said that working with McCormack has felt as if she was taking a master class in leadership, something that she will carry with her forever.
“She has served as a model of what a woman in leadership looks like,” added Bostic. “She is focused, she is caring, she holds the whole picture, but she also is laser focused on the mission all the time.”
Despite the difficulty of saying goodbye to McCormack, Bostic said it can also be exciting to welcome a new president.
“There is a bittersweetness to it, but also an energy and an excitement for the opportunity of a lay person to engage with this role of leadership in the same spirit of the sisters and an extension of the work that they’ve been doing for 93 years, and that our mission remains the same, to educate young women for lives of faith, integrity and truth,” said Bostic. “And they’ve built a really strong foundation from which we hope to continue to grow our impact in the community and the world through the lives of our students.”

Sister Carolyn McCormack has made many meaningful relationships during her 21 years at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, including with Father Tony Marti and Sister Celeste Botello. — Outlook Valley Sun file photo
Sister Celeste Botello and Monsignor Antonio Cacciapuoti are pictured with Sister Carolyn McCormack (right), who has fostered 21 years worth of community while at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. — Outlook Valley Sun file photo
Sister Carolyn McCormack said she plans to spend a year in sabbatical doing the things she “loves,” like publishing a book of prayers and taking a trip to Ireland. — Photo courtesy FSHA
Replacing Sister Carolyn McCormack in July will be Marlena Conroy, who will be the first lay president in the school’s history. — Photo courtesy FSHA

First published in the May 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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