August 5, 2008


Teacher takes over as St. Mary’s principal

Previous principal who retired June 22 has mentored her replacement over the last two years

St. Mary's

Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
St. Mary’s new school principal Susan McInvale stands in front of the school she has worked at as a teacher for the last three years.

Staff Reporter

Susan McInvale believes in Catholic education, and so when she moved into Cortland seven years ago she enrolled her daughter into school at St. Mary’s.
Now she has two daughters attending the local parochial elementary school and she is finishing up some studies herself as she steps into the role of principal.
For about two years, McInvale has been studying educational leadership with Sister Harriet Hamilton, who retired the end of June after 22 years as principal, as her mentor. McInvale became principal July 1.
McInvale said she will receive her certificate of advanced study in administration by September from LeMoyne College, where she also received her master’s degree in education. She said her undergraduate degree is in elementary education with a literacy minor from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, in Texas.
“She has a real passion for Catholic education,” said the Rev. Michael Minehan.
He also noted her familiarity with St. Mary’s, teaching experience there and having been mentored by Hamilton as reasons McInvale was selected. Minehan said there were several applicants for the job, but would not specify how many.
She said her administrative salary has not been set yet.
“The best thing about the job is my interaction with parents and children. They actually bring me a lot of joy,” said McInvale, 49.
A St. Mary’s teacher for three years — two as a pre-kindergarten teacher and one as a fifth-grade teacher — she has also taught literacy to adults at the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES on Port Watson Street.
“It was the right time in my career,” McInvale said of the move to the principal position. “I felt I could offer my experiences as a teacher and knowledge of community in a positive way.”
Although born in Buffalo and raised in nearby Angola, McInvale has lived all over the country, including Texas and Washington states, where she also taught. She said she has also held positions working with displaced workers and finding educational opportunities for them. She also served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany for four years.
McInvale said Hamilton approached her about teaching at the school. The new principal said she had been an active parent at the school.
“It was a chance to be somewhere where I felt really comfortable,” McInvale said.
A primary goal of McInvale’s is to strengthen academic instruction in the classrooms. She said she would like to see more integration of instruction and technology and bringing in more members of the community with specializations to talk with students. McInvale said she has already lined up Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation employees for the beginning of the year to talk about water conservation.
McInvale said she would also like to see teachers take advantage of more advanced studies to strengthen their own teaching. She said she would also be looking at their strengths.
McInvale also would like to increase student enrollment and retention. The school has close to 300 students, ranging from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
“She has great ideas on how to improve the (educational) experience,” said Minehan, citing her idea to form relationships with resources already in Cortland, such as the college and public school system.
McInvale and her husband, James, who runs his own business from home, live in Cortland with their two daughters, Julie, 11, and Dana, 7, who are entering sixth grade and third grade, respectively, next year.
“I’m excited — very excited,” McInvale said. “I anticipate a great school year.”


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