By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published April 27, 2006
Diane Starkovich has been appointed as the new superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, coming to North Georgia from the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, where she has been serving as associate superintendent.
A native of Minnesota, she will bring to the post over 27 years of experience in education, including nine as a teacher and 15 as a Catholic school principal in Colorado and Texas.
As associate superintendent in Fort Worth since 2003, her responsibilities included overseeing the accreditation process for the diocese’s 19 schools, assisting the superintendent in the day-to-day operations of the Catholic Schools Office, chairing the textbook selection committee, conducting searches for new principals, and evaluating principals in light of diocesan policies.
She also developed a new teacher evaluation instrument and process, oversaw federal programs for schools, and counseled principals and pastors when requested. Starkovich has served the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department since 1995 as state trainer and state chair for visiting teams.
The Fort Worth Diocese has a Catholic school system with approximately 6,700 students in 15 elementary schools, two K-12 schools, one traditional college preparatory high school, and one alternative high school where the average age of students is 20.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who initiated a national search for a new superintendent of Catholic schools last fall, said, “Diane Starkovich has proven herself to be an excellent educator and administrator. I look forward to working with her as we continue to develop excellence in our archdiocesan schools.”
Her appointment is effective May 15, and she said in a telephone interview she will be in the office May 17.
“I am very excited, very honored, very privileged,” she said April 24. “I am just looking forward to it. I hope it is going to be a wonderful experience for all of us.”
Starkovich described herself as “a real collaborator,” who is eager to visit the schools of the archdiocese and hear the concerns of the administrators, faculty and school communities.
“I want to spend a considerable amount of time listening, getting to know the archdiocese. … I want to listen. I want to hear what their concerns are,” she said. “I think it is about building relationships at first, and I want to build a level of trust with people.”
She said that she thought the various levels of experience she has had as a principal and as a diocesan administrator will help her to respect both points of view.
“Being a principal for 15 years, when you have been in the schools and have that experience one can relate to the principals and their daily challenges. That probably gives me tremendous information and knowledge,” Starkovich said. “Working at the diocesan office for three years you get to see the big picture. You see how we all work together and that we really have the same ultimate goal—building the kingdom for our God.”
“It has to be done collaboratively,” she concluded.
Starkovich was principal of St. Maria Goretti School in Arlington, Texas, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school, from 1992-2003 and also chaired accreditation teams throughout Texas. She previously served as principal of Holy Family School in Fort Worth from 1987-89 and Most Precious Blood School in Denver from 1990-92.
Before becoming a principal she taught for nine and a half years.
She received her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in elementary education with reading endorsement from the University of Minnesota in Duluth and her master’s degree summa cum laude in educational administration with mid-management endorsement from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
She is a doctoral student in Catholic school leadership at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where she will complete coursework this summer. The following summer she will take comprehensive exams and submit her dissertation.
“Even with my years of experience, I have learned, and I really enjoyed the program,” Starkovich said. “I truly believe the Holy Spirit moved me in that direction.”
The Fort Worth Diocese has been growing in Catholic population and in its Hispanic community, she said, while the growth in the Archdiocese of Atlanta “is phenomenal.”
That prospect of continued growth in the church and the Catholic school system, along with the archbishop’s support of Catholic schools, made the prospect of coming here exciting, Starkovich said. “I am so impressed with him and so look forward to working with him.”
She and her husband, John, a labor attorney, have been married for “almost 29 years” and have one son, John III, 22, who is in graduate school in Manchester, England, studying computational molecular biology.
“God only gave us one, but he gave us a great son,” said Starkovich.
The position of superintendent was vacated in November 2005 when Judith Mucheck resigned after serving in the post for five years.
In his first year as the archbishop of Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory initiated an assessment of the archdiocese’s educational efforts. In a letter to pastors and principals last September, the archbishop stated as a priority to develop and promulgate a clear vision for the Catholic schools in the archdiocese and for the Office of Catholic Schools, including a mission statement for that office. He also said an archdiocesan school board will be established and model school bylaws and guidelines will be tailored for the different types of schools and boards in the archdiocese. A careful review of the principal search process is planned, said the archbishop, with special attention to defining the roles of the pastors, chaplains, superintendent, search committee, professional facilitators and others. He said the archdiocese will explore the institution of a leadership development program for Catholic schoolteachers considering a position in school administration.