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New Pres of Pres

Megan Munce, Online Editor

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A tear runs down Mary Miller’s face as she recalls her 40 years serving as principal of Presentation. The walls of her office are decorated with the faces of Pres girls of the past as reminders of the legacy she has left on the school and all those who have walked through it. “I spent my whole life trying to tell girls ‘Go for it!’ and ‘Don’t be afraid to take risks, what’s the worst that could happen?’” she says. “I feel like looking in the mirror and going ‘Mary, you’ve been talking about this for a long time, start living it.’”

The risk Miller is discussing is Presentation’s recent decision to make the switch to a principal-president model, similar to the one already in place at schools like Bellarmine and St. Francis, with whom she has been in extensive contact for advice on this change. The new model will retain Miller–now transitioning to become the president of the school–and bring in a newcomer as the principal.

The search for a new principal takes into account both qualified internal candidates as well as outsiders, although Miller confirms that the search will stay within the Bay Area. After a committee of teachers and administrators finalizes an application to be sent out, Miller hopes the school will be able to announce the decision on the new principal by December of this year.

This new transition comes at a time when Presentation is taking on a number of changes, from growing enrollment to a new major construction plan hoping to be phased in over the next 20 years. Moving into this new period of growth, Miller found that the switch was absolutely essential to fulfill the school’s masterplan without sacrificing the day-to-day.

For years, Miller has been operating as de facto president and principal in one. As she describes it, the principal is in charge of the “day-to-day operations of the school” while the role of the president is “a little bit more outside looking to get the support and the resources for the people on the outside to do what they do very well.”

As for the effect on the students, Miller predicts that there will be no major changes. “I would say probably the greatest difference is that my visibility to students will be a bit diminished,” she says, “but I’ll be around and it’s not like I’m not going to be at masses and things like that…I’ll be on campus.”

Miller hopes that the construction plan she will now be working on extensively as school president will begin with the first phase–renovating the student center–within the next five years. New renovations will make campus spaces more modern to improve the student experience at Pres, with new resources and places for school events as well as leisure. “Our girls are doing fine, but they’re doing fine in an atmosphere that is not very comfortable,” she says.

However, she’s very optimistic about Pres moving forward with the president-principal model. She says, “We’re going to have a great principal who’s running a great school as it is right now, and someone who’s hopefully going to be building the resources to make it even better.”

“Of course it’s bittersweet for me because I think when you leave anything that you’re 100 percent used to, going into a little bit of the unknown is scary…I’m a little nervous, but I’m very committed to this. It’s going to be a good thing.”

“It has been an absolute honor to be here for 40 years, and when I think back on the number of incredible women I’ve met, incredible people in general…I’m so proud…I could die tomorrow and feel like life had meaning,” she says.

The close of Miller’s tenure as principal will certainly be the end of an era, as she says herself, “I spent forty years working with kids, so the idea of having a relationship once removed is painful. But I want this… It’s the right thing.”

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New Pres of Pres