When St. Barbara School marches ahead into the future armed with a new strategic plan this summer, the institution will be doing so without Janet Erazmus, who has been its principal for the past 20 years.
Earlier this month, Erazmus informed school families via a letter that she was retiring from her 44-year career in education at the end of June.
"I always said that I'll work until I'm 66 and then retire," said Erazmus. "In June, I'll be that. I have mixed feelings, because I've been here a long time. It's a nice school, with nice kids and nice parents. I'll be back to help in any other capacity I'm asked."
Erazmus came to St. Barbara in 1992 after a 24-year teaching career at St. Turibius School on Chicago's Southwest Side. She taught almost every grade during her time at St. Turibius.
She was instrumental in overhauling St. Barbara's curriculum and creating the school's computer labs. The school also added full-day preschool during Erazmus' time at St. Barbara.
"When I came here there were two computers," said Erazmus. "I set up the entire tech program. We worked with parents to get the resources and now we have two labs."
It's the school's sense of collaboration that has impressed her deeply, said Erazmus.
"We all worked together and brought the families together," said Erazmus. "There's a real family spirit and everyone is really involved."
The last few years have been trying ones at St. Barbara, however. Enrollment has steadily dropped, dipping to 76 students in 2011-12. By the fall of 2011, there was talk that the school might close.
But plans are for the school to remain open, pending the rollout of a new strategic plan that been crafted by the Chicago Archdiocese in collaboration with committees of parents at St. Barbara.
That plan was supposed to be unveiled in mid-February, but is now scheduled to be rolled out at a parish meeting on March 13 at the school.
Erzamus' successor will be chosen through a joint effort by a search committee; St. Barbara's pastor, the Rev. Robert Casey; and the Chicago Archdiocese's Office of Catholic Schools.
Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said that the search committee would be trained by Assistant Superintendent Sister Rosemary Hickman.
While the committee can consider any candidate who applies, McCaughey said she hopes the committee will seriously consider candidates identified by the archdiocese.
"Our hope with St. Barbara is that we'd hope they would find an outstanding candidate from one we've identified at the office, that we've recommended," said McCaughey.
While the committee and Casey will select a finalist, McCaughey will have final say over the hire in her role as superintendent.
Casey was out of town and could not be reached.