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Deputy superintendent of Catholic Schools eager to work with principals and teachers

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Kari Buchinger, deputy superintendent of Catholic Schools, creates a meeting schedule with principals. The newly created position will over see professional development of principals and teachers. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi

Fireworks went off in the Catholic Schools Department just after the Fourth of July when Kari Buchinger came on board as the new deputy superintendent for Catholic Schools. In this role she will work with teachers and principals to aid in professional development.

Buchinger, who was born outside of Rochester, taught third- and fourth-grade before becoming principal of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in Memphis, Tennessee, and then St. Philip Neri Catholic School in Indianapolis. She holds a bachelor’s in English and Sociology from St. Bonaventure University, a master’s in Elementary education and teaching from Christian Brothers University, and master’s in Educational Leadership from University of Notre Dame.

Let’s start with your background. You’re not from Buffalo are you?

“I grew up south of Rochester. I’m a Western New Yorker. I’ve been gone for about 10 years. So, I’m back home again. I graduated from St. Bonaventure University. Then moved on to grad school in Memphis, Tennessee, where I became a teacher and eventually principal. Most recently, I completed a degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Notre Dame and was a principal in Indianapolis, all in Catholic schools.”  

What drew you to Catholic education?

“That’s such a great question with a really complex answer. I guess all I can say is God did. I decided later in my college experience that I wanted to be an elementary teacher. At the time, I would have had to stay longer in order to complete that degree, so I found this wonderful program in Catholic schools in Memphis, a place I never could have guessed I would live, and I just fell in love with it. Once I got into the classroom and had the experience of not only teaching students how to read and do math and become scientists, but also how to be really wonderful people with the inspiration of Jesus, our best example. I don’t think there’s anything that quite compares to that.”

You said within 10 years you were a principal. That seems like a pretty quick rise.

“It was.”

Tell me a little about that? How did you get promoted so easily?

“I guess I could say, ‘Right place at the right time.’ I think sometimes God has plans for us that happen a little more of a rapid rate than we would have expected. That was certainly one for me.

“I was blessed with a phenomenal principal as a mentor. She saw gifts and talents in me and really inspired me to pursue leadership. Because of her example, and the support of my wonderful colleagues and professors at Notre Dame, I was able to step into that position with a whole lot of excitement and some wonderful skills that I would not have had without those fantastic mentors.”

What is your role as deputy superintendent of schools here?

“That role is definitely still evolving. My main focusses will be on teaching and learning and how we can support principals, to provide really strong professional development, and support their teachers, so they are continuing to grow in their craft. We know that the best way to see students continue to achieve more is to support teachers to grow as practitioners, and also see principals grow in their own professionalism and their own exposure to instruction. That will be a huge part of my focus, especially to begin. I will do quite a bit of professional development with new teachers and new principals, and just find ways that I can support school leaders, because their job is so difficult, especially now that we go into another year of having various Covid regulations, that list of things that gets put on them continues to grow. I really want to be a support to break down some of those things and make their job easier.”

You’ve visited some of the schools already?

“I have, yes.”

What do you think of them? What would you like to see?

“I’ve had a fantastic time so far. We had three schools host Math Camps, and I was not only able to meet some teachers and principals, but also see some of their students in action. The first thing I see are extremely passionate people. The principals I’ve had a chance to meet care so deeply about their school, their larger community, and especially their teachers and students. In my opinion, that is a huge changemaker for teachers who are looking for a home, and a place to grow in their profession. So, I’ve seen a few schools and am really excited to visit even more, especially once the school year begins.”

Do you have any specific plans for the upcoming school year?

“We’re focusing a lot on professional development and opportunities for leaders and teachers to collaborate with one another. In any diocese, often you can find yourself as the only teach of a certain grade level, or the only principal in a certain community. Growing those relationships from school to school can be such a strong support system, especially for new teachers and new principals. So, we’re focusing a lot on how we can look at our larger community here in the Diocese of Buffalo and support one another.”

The first day of school in the diocese will be Wednesday, Sept. 8.

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