On March 13, Sacred Heart-Griffin High School named Kara Rapacz as its next principal and its first lay principal.

Katherine O’Connor, president and interim principal of SHG, said the school examined several qualified candidates from around the nation, but Rapacz, who currently serves as assistant principal, was clearly the best fit.

“This is an exciting time for us Dominicans as we entrust our treasured institution to lay leadership,” O’Connor said. “We have partnered with lay teachers for many years, and it is now time to pass the torch of the role of principal on to a lay person. I am confident that Kara’s deep faith and love for the Dominican charism will compel her to deepen the Catholic, Dominican identity of Sacred Heart-Griffin.”
As assistant principal, Rapacz leads the school’s staff in curriculum building, granular analysis of standardized testing data, accreditation review and audits from both the State of Illinois and the Diocese of Springfield. She takes over as principal on July 1.

We asked Rapacz a handful of questions to get to the heart of her leadership. Here’s what she had to say:

What made you become an educator?

I decided to enter the field of education because of my incredible high school guidance counselor, Mrs. Hoffek. I was a senior in high school with no idea what field I wanted to go into. She helped me evaluate my strengths and find the right career path.

How long have you been at SHG, and what brought you here originally?

I am currently in my ninth year at SHG. As a teenager, I wanted desperately to attend SHG; unfortunately, that was not in God’s plan for me. When I first saw the job posting almost 10 years ago for my first position at SHG, I knew it was finally my chance to get inside the doors of this amazing school. I applied, and the rest is history.

Why did you decide this new role was the right move for you?

When the position of principal opened up, there was not a question in my mind that I wanted to apply. This school has helped me strengthen my faith life, and in turn, has helped me become better both personally and professionally. I wanted the opportunity to pay back some of what has been provided to me. I have a passion for education and spirituality. Being able to bring both of those together to change the lives of young people is an absolute dream!

What are you most looking forward to as principal?

Wow, I’m not really sure. I guess I am most excited to collaborate with the students and help them realize that they have a voice in their future. The student leadership at SHG is amazing, and I can’t wait to see what they want to accomplish next.

Does being the first lay principal at SHG bring any challenges?

Being selected as the first lay principal is an incredible feeling, but it does come with a great deal of responsibility. The Dominican Sisters and Viatorian Priests have led SHG, Sacred Heart Academy, Griffin High School and Cathedral Boys High School for 122 years. Transferring leadership to a lay person is a historical event that I promise not to take lightly. All staff and members of the school community will have to work together to ensure the founding principles of the school remain at the center of all decisions that are made. We will continue to provide academic excellence in a faith-filled environment to as many students in Springfield and surrounding areas as possible.

How do you hope to affect your students as they go out into the world?

I face each day with one main goal: to help others recognize God’s blessings and use those gifts to positively impact someone else’s life. It is all about paying it forward. Coming together, supporting one another and finding the strength in your community is what SHG is all about. As my students go out into the world, I want them to remember the impact they have on others and stay true to their ideals so they can ultimately pay it forward.