New superintendent of Catholic schools
A veteran Missouri Catholic educator and school principal became the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington on July 1.
“Catholic education is my passion, and my vision is quite simple: Catholic education exists to bring the students and their families into a deeper relationship with Christ and His Church,” Jeanne Gearon said.
She comes to Vermont from Sacred Heart Catholic School in Valley Park, Missouri, where she was principal.
All of her educational ministry has been in Catholic education; she spent 16 years teaching and 17 years as an administrator.
Now, as superintendent, Gearon’s first priority is to build on the successes of the past in order to continue the valuable work of furthering Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne’s vision for Catholic education in the Diocese. As part of this process, she plans to spend time at each Vermont Catholic school, meeting and engaging with pastors, principals, administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents. “I want to get to know the school communities so that I can come to fully appreciate everything that makes each school such a treasured part of the Diocese,” she said. “Through these encounters, I hope to learn how I can best support each community in sharing the faith with the children and families the schools are seeking to serve.”
She also hopes to gain valuable insight about support needed to maintain and strengthen the high academic standards for which Catholic education is so well known.
“Catholic education is important today in much the same way it was important when it began so many decades ago,” Gearon said. “For our Catholic families, our schools exist to work in partnership with the parents in passing on the faith to the children of our Church. For our families who are not Catholic, our schools are needed as a conduit to introduce these children to the love of Christ and the beauty of our Catholic faith and traditions that teach us we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Asked about challenges that face Catholic education today, she mentioned “the reality that we are living in a time when the deeply held values of our Church are not in sync with much of voiced positions of society.”
Holding fast to the tenets of the faith must be at the forefront for any educational endeavor seeking to truly be Catholic, she continued. “This has many challenges, and yet it is what Our Lord is asking of us so it is not something on which we can compromise.”
How this is done can vary, and in a rural Diocese like Burlington, this can become even more challenging. “Due to the vast geographic distances between many of our schools, and, as an outsider just getting to know the area, I think one critical issue may be a feeling of isolation,” Gearon said. “Many of our schools are far from our diocesan home base and are far from a neighboring Catholic parish or school. This is a challenge that cannot be overlooked and one that must be embraced with creative solutions.”
No school should ever feel “on its own,” the new superintendent said. “Each should feel sincerely connected to not only the diocesan staff but also to one another. It is in being community that we find Our Lord and it is in being community that we can best share all that the Catholic Church has to offer.”
During her first year as superintendent she will focus on getting to know each school community and learning how best she can support the important work being done by the many faith-filled individuals ministering in these educational organizations.
“Our schools are called to be welcoming to anyone seeking an education rooted in Gospel values,” Gearon said. “We want our schools to be havens of a deep spirituality on which strong academics are based. Anyone who comes to us should feel fully invited to immerse themselves in the rich culture that is Catholic education.”
Gearon was born in St. Louis and grew up in High Ridge, Missouri, a small town outside the city. She attended Missouri State University in Springfield, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1985. In 1993 she earned a master’s degree in elementary school administration from St. Louis University in St. Louis, from which she received a doctor of education degree in educational leadership 2009.
She received the 2009 Archdiocesan Distinguished Principal Award from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
In her free time, Gearon enjoys reading, taking long walks and spending time with family and friends. When time allows, she enjoys a good book and finds delight in time at the beach.