Following the retirement of Barbara Genera, Our Lady of Lourdes had large shoes to fill.
Williams resident Natalie McCullough is filling the position with a variety of skills that, combined, all work together for a well-rounded administrator for the private school.
“The faculty and staff at Our Lady of Lourdes are very excited to have Natalie as our new principal,” said Montserrat Arias, the school’s vice principal. “Although we will all miss Mrs. Genera, we are happy to know that our students, faculty, and staff will be lead by Natalie, who values our school’s mission in faith and commitment to excellence.”
McCullough, a mother of five, started her career in education in 2006 when her firstborn child started preschool. She added teaching credentials to her bachelor’s degree in accounting.
While a principal for a Catholic school in Woodland, McCullough also attended law school. She obtained a juris doctor degree and passed the bar exam on her first try. McCullough spent a number of years teaching at OLL and working at another school as a bookkeeper.
She also found herself filling a coach’s vacancy for her child’s sport. When McCullough tried to take a year off with a new child, she accepted a request for a substitute algebra teacher.
“You think, oh, I’m just helping out… 13 years later,” McCullough laughed.
McCullough chalks the secret of her success to doing what she believes in: staying ahead of the schedule, compartmentalizing and leaving work at work, and finally to delegate and trust in the ability of others.
She said it helps to be proactive as opposed to being reactive, and requires as much planning as possible.
“A lot of what I do though, centers around what my kids are doing,” McCullough said.
McCullough’s undergrad is in business administration and strategic management.
“We do a lot more of the actual day-to-day operations than the public schools so the business part is an asset in that respect,” she said.
When she was looking at furthering her education, she said that she decided on the versatility of a law degree that has specific benefits for a private school.
McCullough claims she does not intend to reinvent the wheel and stated that she is allowing her staff the autonomy for development and expertise.
“Barabara’s fine-tuned a lot of things,” she added. “Even though I’ve been involved with the school for so long, part of my role is to watch and get feedback.”
For now, McCullough is focusing on the upcoming Octoberfest, which will be held on the last Saturday in September. The Octoberfest is one of four major fundraisers that help with the cost of running the school. The others are the Pheasant Festival in November, the Crab Feed in early spring, and a fireworks booth in the summer. The fundraisers help with the cost of running the school.
McCullough hopes that people don’t discount private school because of expenses.
“There are options. We do a financial aid process for those that need the assistance, uniform closets, sometimes it’s sponsorships and things like that,” reassures McCullough. “But it’s well worth it in the end.”
Practicing what she preaches, all of the McCullough school-age children have been enrolled in Catholic school.
“I know my kids are getting more faith formation throughout their day; that’s first and foremost,” McCullough said. “Secondly, the environment. Everyone wants that safe and caring environment. I think it’s the faith that creates that. Because that environment is so bolstered by faith and the slogan, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and we can say that to a child. From an environment that fosters that kind of thing comes excellent academics. We’re not dealing with as much of the behavioral issue because it’s embedded from the beginning.”
The school is open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade, regardless of faith. McCullough said that some of the doctrine might have some differences to it but the underlying message is the same.
“All of us, no matter where we’re coming from in faith, want safe and happy kids that are going to make good decisions as they become young adults,” McCullough added. “How else do you give that if I can’t have them surrounded by it for eight hours a day. To give our kids the strength and resolve to make the right decisions when they’re not with us all the time. That to me is important.” ■