CINCINNATI -- The Archdiocese of Cincinnati selected a familiar face to lead its Catholic schools.
Susan M. Gibbons, who has held the role of interim superintendent since October 2015, has been appointed superintendent of Catholic schools and director of educational services. She succeeds former superintendent Jim Rigg, who resigned Oct. 2 after five years in Cincinnati to become superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Gibbons joined the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office in 2010 as assistant superintendent and regional director for elementary and secondary schools following 30 years as a teacher and administrator at Seton High School in Price Hill — including 13 years as principal of the all-girls Catholic school from 1997 until her departure in 2010.
A native of Dayton, Gibbons attended Alter High School, where she later taught math and French. She earned undergraduate degrees in math, French and secondary education at what is now Mount St. Joseph University, and a master’s degree in education from Xavier University.
“I’ve lived my entire life within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I have been a teacher, director of student activities, assistant principal, principal and a lifetime Catholic, and I bring all of that with me and 38 years of experience,” Gibbons said. “I feel that I am never going to be more prepared than I am now to look at Catholic education and bring all of that experience to the table. I have kind of walked the walk and talked the talk.”
Karen Klug White, Seton’s principal since Gibbons left in 2010, has a long history with the new superintendent. White was a student during Gibbons’ tenure as principal at Seton, a music teacher under Gibbons at the school and, since becoming Seton’s principal, White has worked with her during Gibbons’ years as regional director of the area’s Catholic high schools.
“As a teacher, I loved working for Susie. She had an open door policy, she always listened to what you had to say, she was always understanding and she gave great advice,” White said. “Since I became principal, I tell her that I learned from the best and that I learned everything I know from her.”
White recalls how Gibbons made her feel like a part of the Seton family when she began teaching under Gibbons.
“She has such a loyal and honest character. We were holding our breath hoping she would be named permanently to the role because we are used to working with her, we know how she works and we know she is extremely supportive,” White said. “She wants to see the Catholic schools succeed, which obviously is very important to us.”
As Gibbons looks to the job ahead of her, she said she plans to continue the strategic plan put into place by her predecessor with an emphasis on cultivating good leadership, which she said is a challenge as many principals near retirement.
“We are looking to find really good leadership for our schools. We are getting to a period where a lot of longstanding principals are getting ready to retire,” Gibbons said. “We don’t have a lot of people in the pipeline, to be honest. We attribute that to the fact that it is a difficult job with so much to know and not enough hours in the day. It is a national trend in the public schools, too.”
Gibbons also plans to direct her focus on the schools’ financial viability, encouraging responsible student use of changing technology, and providing professional development to keep teachers abreast of current trends and issues. She noted the importance of making tuition assistance programs available, which will be bolstered in the coming years by the archdiocese’s centralized tuition fund born out of the 2015 capital campaign, the first in 60 years.
Before Rigg left the superintendent role for the job in Chicago, he recommended Gibbons as his replacement. She held the interim superintendent role — along with her previous role as regional director — for the majority of last school year before her official appointment as superintendent this summer.
“Susan Gibbons has devoted her entire career to Catholic education in our Archdiocese,” Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said in a written statement. “She will be a steady hand as superintendent, just as she was as interim superintendent, insuring that the strong forward movement of our schools will continue.”