MINNEAPOLIS — It is refreshing to learn about a successful school at a time when our education system is under such scrutiny. St. Helena Catholic School, in south Minneapolis, is an excellent school and Jane Hileman is a big reason for its success. She is one of 12 principals selected this year for the Distinguished Principal Award given by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). She will be honored at the NCEA National Convention in Houston this April. Hileman has been associated with St. Helena Catholic School for 25 years and principal for 15 years. John Hines introduced her to the WCCO listening audience on his show today (February 12).
Hileman came to St. Helena in 1988 as a mother looking for a good school for her child. Soon, all three of her daughters were enrolled and Hileman was hired to teach English. Her leadership quickly showed and she was offered the position of principal. “Jane excelled in the classroom and had a way of inspiring her students to reach their full potential. Asking her to become principal was the right step to ensure continued growth and success for our school and parish,” said the school’s pastor, Reverend Richard Villano.
Outstanding Academic Performance
St. Helena, a small Catholic school nestled in a south Minneapolis neighborhood, consistently graduates well-educated students. While a third of its students qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program, the students consistently turn in high test scores in math, reading and science.
Ingredients for Success
Hileman’s leadership gets results in every aspect of the organization. In addition to operating a school, she has been unrelenting in raising funds for the school through the Minnesota Marathon for Nonpublic Education, raising funds for the church through the Autumn Daze Festival and leading the campaign for parents to hand-deliver 13,000 brochures to every house within the area for its annual Kindergarten Round-Up and Open House. The school has sustained operations through the years at a time when many Catholic schools have had to merge or close.
While Hileman graduated from Carleton College and has a Master of Arts Degree from St. Mary’s University, she has not forgotten her Hibbing roots. She’s tough and has a sense of compassion for the underdog. John Sondag, the church’s Director of Religious Education, remembers her as a teacher confronting a middle school boy in the basement of the school saying, “And if I ever hear that coming from your mouth again…” He doesn’t know what the boy may have said, but he was sure he would not say it again, at least in her presence.
Close to Students and Staff
Hileman knows every student by name. She may often be seen sitting down reading with students in the library. She also supervises a room of students at lunchtime. These are students who need a little coaching to improve their grades. Sondag says, “This is not meant to be a punishment, but it’s a time when she wants students to succeed, and she knows they can, if they work harder. Therefore, she doesn’t leave it just to teachers to push. She herself pushes with kindness and love.”
Hileman says, “If anyone asks me about being a principal, I always tell them that they will never be bored. I never know what the day will bring. When I was a teacher, I was in control of most things that happened. Now, I never know. You have to be good on your feet and extremely flexible. I spend much time listening to people’s problems, coaching children to success and being supportive of teachers. The job is never ending but the daily rewards are well worth it.”