CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Maria Bovich, principal of Holy Redeemer School in College Park, Md., is named Distinguished Principal of the Year.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Maria Bovich, principal of Holy Redeemer School in College Park, Md., is named Distinguished Principal of the Year.

At the opening of school Mass for Holy Redeemer School in College Park on Sept. 7, the school’s principal, Maria Bovich, sat in the front of the church, with rows of students and, unbeknownst to her, her children and grandchildren seated behind her, waiting to see her be surprised with the Archdiocese of Washington’s 2016 Distinguished Principal of the Year Award.

The annual award is presented to a principal who excels in six categories: balancing management and leadership roles, setting high expectations and standards, stressing content and instruction that ensures student achievement, creating a culture of professional development for teachers, using multiple tools to apply and assess instructional improvements and actively engaging the school community.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Father Mark Smith, the pastor of Holy Redeemer, thanked Bill Ryan, the superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, for being there, and invited him to come up and say a few words.

Ryan began by welcoming the children back to school on behalf of Cardinal Wuerl, the Catholic Schools Office and everyone at the archdiocese, telling them, “We are very, very proud of this school.” He continued to explain that every year, they are tasked with choosing one principal in the archdiocese to be “Principal of the Year.”

At this point, Bovich later said she had begun to think about the person who she had voted for to get the award, and all of the principals who she thought were deserving of it. Then, as Ryan continued to ask the students and faculty if they thought Bovich should receive the award, it began to hit her what was happening – that she had been chosen as the archdiocese’s Distinguished Principal of the Year.

“To be voted by your peers…it is just the biggest honor, and there are so many more deserving than I am,” Bovich said.

Ryan told the congregation about the criteria for being Principal of the Year, and when he asked if Bovich met the criteria, there was a resounding “yes,” followed by a standing ovation as Bovich walked up to accept the award, wiping tears from her eyes. At that time, students came forward to present her with flowers and hold up a new banner that announced the award. 

When Bovich looked out into the pews of the church, she saw that her family was standing in the back, and invited them forward, saying, “I am so proud of my family.”

She and her husband Michael have three children and four grandchildren.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as surprised as I am today,” Bovich said. “There aren’t very many people in this world who get such an honor for something they love doing.”

As she continued to talk about her job at Holy Redeemer, which she has had for the past eight years, Bovich told the students and faculty, “It is my mission, but it is also my joy.” She earlier served as the vice principal at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie.

Under her leadership, Holy Redeemer School has had two Golden Apple Award winning teachers, and the school’s enrollment has grown.

As the students exited the church after Mass, Bovich stood by the door, giving them hugs on their way out. Brianna Nickle, the school’s vice principal, said this wasn’t a special occurrence – Bovich frequently does the same thing after school Masses.

“Maria Bovich is magnificent example of servant leadership. She strives to provide every student with a high quality education infused with Gospel values,” Ryan said. “Mrs. Bovich lives her Catholic faith every day by serving the teachers, parents and most especially the students at Holy Redeemer School.”

Nickle, who recently began working at Holy Redeemer, said Bovich has been a great mentor for her, providing her with guidance and leadership, while also making her job enjoyable.

“She makes it so I want to come to work every day,” Nickle said.

Bovich said she is grateful for the faculty at Holy Redeemer, who are so caring for each other. “It is so nice to see how much they help each other and support each other,” she said.

Bovich earned a master's degree in educational administration from the University of Maryland, College Park and used to teach in Prince George’s County Public schools. She said teaching in Catholic schools is “a whole other world.”

“The strong, unending guidance of Christ’s love and Christ’s message…it keeps us all together,” she said.