It's all about helping all children grow, says new leader
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - You would think that the principal of St. Therese School in Parkville would want more time to enjoy the strides of the last eight years.
But Pat Burbach accepted a new challenge as associate superintendent of diocesan schools with excitement.
"St. Therese is a wonderful challenge," said Burbach, as she began her new job on Aug. 1. "But this is about vision, and being able to work the teachers of all schools to contribute to that vision. This is about being able to advocate for principles as a whole and for parish school communities in a more global way."
Burbach served as principal of St. Therese, now one of the largest schools in the diocese, since 1999. In those eight years, she served in a time of transition, when the parish carefully planned and executed the construction of a new school and parish education center that expanded enrollment from 400 to 630 from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Burbach said she will always be proud of her role in helping make the new school happen.
"The exciting thing is, it's a lived reality," she said. "That space functions as much as a parish center as a school."
Burbach will join a three-person diocesan school leadership team along with interim Superintendent Sister of St. Joseph Patricia Clune, and Associate Superintendent David Woolwine, as the search continues for a permanent superintendent of diocesan schools.
She will work closely with elementary schools and early childhood education centers in southern Kansas City, and will also coordinate with the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education (F.I.R.E.) that raises money and provides expertise to make Catholic school education accessible to more children with special developmental needs.
Burbach said she is especially excited about spreading F.I.R.E., and helped open St. Therese to special needs children.
"We are about serving children in our parishes - all children," Burbach said. "The old days of 'We don't take those kids' are long gone, and thank you, God. Obviously, we have to reach out to these children, even though we don't have a tax base to fund it. It's not easy, it's not without some effort, but it is very much within the realm of possibility. We are stronger as a community when we don't make exclusions. It's what Christ asked us to be. "
Burbach said her role will be to help the Diocesan School Office do what it has always done - support principals and teachers in providing the very best possible education possible, rooted in Catholic faith.
"I am looking forward to working with Sister Pat and Dave," she said of her peers. "They are awesome.
"We are not top-heavy with administrators," Burbach noted of the leadership of a system that educates some 13,000 children in area ranging from Maryville to Nevada, and from Kansas City and St. Joseph to Chillicothe.
While she is going to miss the daily contact with teachers and students at St. Therese, she is looking forward to being as directly involved and in support of as many schools as she can.
"It's not going to be the same, but I have to get out to the schools and I'll do that as much as I can," Burbach said.
"This diocese has been good to me," she said. "I am pleased that this diocese takes faith formation and education very seriously and works hard to make it a professional endeavor for teachers and the school community.
"The diocese looks for every opportunity to help us as educators grow," she said. "That helps kids grow, and that's the name of the game."