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Pamela Lyons named to lead archdiocesan Catholic schools

February 23, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

new 01 Superintendent THUMBSan Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone has appointed Pamela Lyons, associate superintendent of archdiocesan schools, as the Catholic school superintendent for the archdiocesan Catholic schools, following a national search led by a Boston-based consultant. The appointment is effective July 1.

She replaces Nina Russo, who served as interim superintendent for the past two years and is retiring after seven years in archdiocesan leadership and a 36-year career in education.

At the announcement of her appointment Feb. 17, Lyons said she was “humbled” by her selection, adding “I’ve been in the archdiocese for two-and-a-half years and I’ve really fallen in love.

“Those who know me, know Catholic education is my passion,” said Lyons, who started as a teacher and then returned to Catholic education after a six-year stint in corporate education.

“My passion for the mission of Catholic education makes my work so much more than a career,” Lyons said. “I truly believe in my soul that Catholic education can be the most powerful form of evangelization that our church has in the United States.”

Lyons is perceived as a tech- and marketing-savvy administrator who has implemented two data-driven projects in the Department of Catholic Schools in the past year. Renaissance STAR testing uses short computer tests of skills given several times a year to allow tracking of students’ achievement to individualize their learning. SchoolSpeak Lite centralized information on faculty, staff and students in a digitized format.

Introducing Lyons, Jesuit Father John Piderit, vicar for administration and moderator of the curia, praised Russo for maintaining elementary school enrollment and slightly increasing high school enrollment this year and said that Lyons knows that her toughest task will be reversing in the archdiocese a national trend of lower Catholic school enrollment.

Lyons has a master’s of arts in educational leadership from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor of arts in English from St. Mary’s University of California in Moraga. She served as principal of Assumption School in San Leandro for nine years, before joining the archdiocesan Department of Catholic Schools as an administrator in July 2014. She served as assistant superintendent until February 2016 when she was promoted to associate superintendent.

Last September, the archdiocese hired the national search firm of Carney, Sandoe & Associates to conduct a nationwide search. In conjunction with the search firm, the search committee winnowed the list to six candidates who were brought in for personal interviews from as far away as Florida. A list of three candidates was selected and sent to Archbishop Cordileone who interviewed the three.

“He remarked that he liked them all,” the archdiocese said in its news release. “However, he had no difficulty in identifying Ms. Lyons as the strongest, and he looks forward to working with her.”

Lyons taught in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland in the first five years of her career and then spent another six years as a technical trainer in San Francisco and later New York. She returned to California where she taught for one year at Assumption School in San Leandro before becoming principal of the school from 2005 to 2014.

The search committee was chaired by Father Steve Howell, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle.

The archdiocese serves nearly 25,000 students in 51 elementary schools and four archdiocesan high schools in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. The Catholic schools in the area also include 10 high schools and eight Catholic elementary schools sponsored by various religious orders and congregations.

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