New superintendent of schools named

First slide

Jennifer Bigelow will become superintendent of schools for the Arlington Diocese July 5, according to an announcement by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. Bigelow will succeed Sister Bernadette McManigal, B.V.M., whose June 30 retirement after eight years of service was announced last year.

"I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Bigelow," said Bishop Loverde, "whose vocation to Catholic education is clearly evident in her decades-long service at all levels of Catholic elementary and secondary education. Bigelow's gifts and passion will undoubtedly equip her to build upon the foundations that were ably strengthened by Sister Bernadette McManigal, B.V.M., and prior superintendents. Our growing Catholic school community will find in Bigelow an evangelist, a leader, and an advocate."

A graduate of the University of Florida, Bigelow holds master's degrees in history and educational leadership from the University of South Florida. She is in the final stages of completing a doctoral degree in educational leadership from North Carolina State University, with a focus on Catholic school leadership and the role of the pastor-principal relationship.

Since 2008, Bigelow has served as principal of The Franciscan School in Raleigh, N.C. As principal, she was instrumental in a $14 million capital campaign to expand the 700-student K-8 school, which was recognized in 2011 as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

Prior to that, Bigelow served in several roles at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Fla., including principal, director of curriculum and instruction, and high school teacher. Bigelow serves on several diocesan planning committees for the Diocese of Raleigh and has presented workshops at the National Catholic Educational Association. A graduate of Catholic elementary and high schools, Bigelow was president of the Catholic Student Union in college and has served as catechist, extraordinary Eucharistic minister and lector in her parish.

"I am honored and blessed to be joining such a dynamic and faith-filled diocese," said Bigelow. "The commitment to Catholic education by Bishop Loverde is quite evident and I look forward to working with him. I also look forward to collaborating with pastors, principals and heads of schools to continue to support the parents and students in the Diocese of Arlington who have committed themselves to Catholic education."

"During our nationwide search and interaction with many candidates, we looked for those who exhibit a deep Catholic faith alongside a successful and collaborative track record as a teacher and administrator at the elementary, middle and secondary levels," said Daniel Curtin, educational consultant in the Office of Catholic Schools, who chaired the superintendent search committee. "Jennifer Bigelow met all of these qualities - and more. She is undoubtedly ready to build on the strong foundation of Catholic education already in place."

Continuing a tradition of excellence in Catholic education

Bigelow succeeds Sister Bernadette McManigal, a nationally recognized leader in Catholic education who was appointed as the interim superintendent of schools in September 2008, a position made permanent seven months later.

"Sister Bernadette has served the Office of Catholic Schools with dedication, commitment and enthusiasm since her arrival," Bishop Loverde said in late 2015, when Sister Bernadette's retirement was announced. "Her steadfast support of Catholic education as it is rendered tangible in each of our schools is truly outstanding, as is her firm commitment to upholding and strengthening the Catholic identity of our schools. Our principals, teachers, and staff have found in Sister Bernadette a source of support, advocacy, and inspiration. We are all indebted to her for her presence and service to the teaching mission of this diocesan church."

Under Sister Bernadette's leadership, the diocese has experienced growth in student enrollment and national recognition for academic excellence. Since 2008, 18 diocesan schools have received the Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, Sister Bernadette has worked alongside teachers and administrators to expand STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) programs and provide academic support for students with unique learning needs.

With the support of Bishop Loverde and in partnership with the Diocesan Office of Development, Sister Bernadette has expanded diocesan tuition assistance programs, particularly for students from low-income and immigrant families. The diocese was able to provide more than 1,500 students with financial assistance in the current school year.

"It has been a privilege to serve as superintendent of Catholic Schools here in Arlington. No one could work with a finer group of teachers or administrators, whose dedication and commitment to Catholic identity is unparalleled," said Sister Bernadette. "I am very grateful to Bishop Loverde for his steadfast support of Catholic education."

The Diocese of Arlington educates more than 12,900 students in 37 elementary schools. Four diocesan high schools - Paul VI, Bishop Ireton, Bishop O'Connell, and Saint John Paul the Great - currently serve more than 3,600 students throughout Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016