New McAuley principal uses her young age to her advantage
OK, let’s get this out of the way right now.
Yes, new Mother McAuley High School Principal Eileen Boyce looks young. That’s because she is young. She is 29 and looks even more youthful.
There are likely still some people out there who think an all-Catholic girls school principal should be ancient and cranky and ready to break knuckles with rulers. There are some people out there who realize that men and women of various ages can handle the job of principal quite well.
But even the most liberal of folks can’t help but notice how young Boyce looks. Heck, the Oak Lawn native and Orland Park resident could pass for one of the students.
“I am fully aware of people’s reaction,” Boyce said on Monday. “From my end, people have been positive about it. For me, it’s an advantage. It’s a benefit. And I’m lucky that people around me to strengthen me in ways in certain experiences that I haven’t had.
“For those who have concerns about my age, once people see the direction McAuley is taking, they will see I have a lot of experience in what we are doing to move forward, I think all of their concerns would be faded away. At least that’s the goal.’’
Boyce earned the spot after nationwide search and interview process. She graduated from the Chicago school in 2003 and is the first alumna to be named principal of the school, which is the largest all-girls high school in the country with 1,200 students.
Little did she know when she was sitting in the classroom, playing basketball or managing the volleyball team back in the early 2000s that she would be running the school a decade later.
“It’s funny because we had these senior Academy Awards at the end of my senior year,” she said. “I think I was voted most likely to return as a teacher at Mother McAuley. Once that was said, it was always in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher.’’
She never got that chance. But she taught at St. John Fischer and said that working with Principal Jean McGrath helped her develop and itch for the administrative side of education.
Boyce joined Mother McAuley in 2012 as assistant principal. Her achievements during her tenure include directing the AdvancED accreditation process, co-chairing the Academic Council, directing the implementation of the Strategic Academic Plan and creating and implementing a 1:1 iPad® program.
In an era when enrollments are dwindling at Catholic schools in the Chicago area — Mt. Assisi in Lemont just closed shop in June — Boyce has confidence in McAuley’s numbers.
“Our numbers are strong,” she said. “Certainly it’s a sacrifice for parents to make financially for their children to attend Catholic schools. I know they see the benefit at Mother McAuley. We will remain strong and I am confident in the future.’’
While there were some whispers in the past about the school possibly merging with Brother Rice, Boyce said she’s not aware of those talks and even though McAuley has a strong relationship with Brother Rice, the plans are to keep McAuley as a single-gender school.
Boyce took over for retiring Claudia Woodruff, who took over the post in 2012 when Christine Melone resigned.
“I’m thrilled that one of our own, raised and educated in the Mercy tradition, will assist in fulfilling the mission and vision for McAuley” says Mary Acker Klingenberger ‘75, the school’s president said in a news release. “I’ve witnessed firsthand Eileen’s leadership style and initiative; she truly exemplifies how a McAuley education challenges and empowers young women to not only rise to the occasion, but to the top of their profession.”
According to school officials, the principal serves as the chief operations officer of the school, focusing on faculty/staff and curriculum development, student life, technology and guidance and counseling. The principal reports to and is accountable to the president.
“The search committee interviewed many excellent applicants for the position and Eileen was the unanimous first choice of the committee,” Eileen Quinn Knight, board of trustee member and search committee participant said in a news release. “Her leadership skills, academic credentials and strong Catholic values are excellent to continue the legacy of Mother McAuley.”
“This is an exciting time for McAuley,” Sister Cathleen Cahill, former principal of Mother McAuley and search committee member said in a statement. “With her balanced vision of academic rigor infused with the Mercy charism and values, the school is poised to advance the education of young women for years to come. Eileen’s experience, enthusiasm and passion for McAuley are a wonderful complement to goals of the Board and Administration.”
A Southside native, Boyce attended Saint Catherine’s grade school in Oak Lawn. She has one brother and is one of five sisters who attended Mother McAuley. Following her high school graduation she attended Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. She then earned a Master of Arts degree in educational administration from Saint Xavier University. She began her career as a junior high teacher at Saint John Fisher grade school in the Beverly area.
“Eileen’s teaching career was the best preparation for her role as principal,” said McGrath. “In many ways, her new role is an extension of her classroom experience, as she’ll continue to guide and prepare young women to pioneer new and exciting paths in their education and beyond.”
Boyce serves on the Saint Xavier University Education Department Advisory Council. She previously served as a committee member on the Saint Xavier University Consortium, and she has been a guest speaker to graduate classes in the Educational Administration program at the University.
Boyce was the 2012 recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award and a nominee and attendee for the Archdiocesan Leadership Academy for 2011 and 2012.
She is looking for a long tenure at the school.
“I’ll stay as long as they will have me, right?” she said. “I am really looking forward to it. I think we’re in a great place and I’m so thankful for the opportunity. I am thankful for everything that people did for me before I was able to get the position. I have a lot to be thankful for, that’s for sure.’’