St. Aug’s first female president resigns after eight months
25th February 2013 · 0 Comments
By April Siese
More than two weeks after Dr. Karen S. Collins abruptly left her position as the CEO and president of St. Augustine High School, community members continue to speculate that Collins’ appointment was over before it began last June.
The first woman and layperson in the position, Collins was hired in June, 2012, as part of a nationwide search to replace the Rev. John Raphael, who was recalled to Baltimore after a public dispute with the Archdiocese of New Orleans over his desire to continue the tradition of corporal punishment at the school.
St. Augustine’s Director of Communications Erin Burns declined to comment on the resignation, as did all other school officials contacted by The Louisiana Weekly who instead pointed to an official statement released by the school that both echoes support for Collins and the direction she was helping to steer St. Augustine in when she left.
“We are grateful to Dr. Collins for her service and dedication to this institution, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” the statement reads, “Through this transition, we will continue to move forward in fulfillment of our mission to our students to be the training ground for leadership through academic excellence, moral values, Christian responsibility and reasonable, consistent discipline.
Collins herself was unavailable for comment as of press time.
Through Collins’ brief tenure, there had been a 10 percent enrollment increase in the fall semester. Collins’ focus encompassed a broad range of local and global progress, as she previously told The Louisiana Weekly after she was initially appointed that “we need to reach out to alumni in key positions throughout the world in a major way.”
Businessman, St. Augustine alum, and board president Troy Henry cited Collins’ previous experience as weighing heavily on the board’s decision to hire Collins, who originally hails from the Crescent City. Most recently, she had been the principal at McCluer South-Berkeley High School in Ferguson, Mo, having moved to the St. Louis metro area after her husband was appointed superintendent of the St. Louis Public School District.
Collins was previously the principal at Francis Gaudet Elementary School as well as Sarah T. Reed Senior High School right here in New Orleans. Collins boasts a Ph.D. in special education and also serves as CEO of Smith-Collins LLC, a development and services company dedicated to aiding the elderly and those with disabilities.
Given the progress the school has experienced during Collins’ stint, members of the St. Augustine’s community are left wondering what went wrong. A former alumni who chose to speak off the record called Collins’ hiring “inappropriate” due to her outsider status and many former Purple Knights were quick to voice their concerns when Collins was initially chosen as president and CEO.
St. Augustine alum Jari Honora, who graduated in 2009, sees the resignation as more of a product of weak leadership within the school and changing times. “I think that it shows what a leadership vacuum can exist when changes occur at our institutions,” Honora says, “We must understand that Xavier Prep and St. Aug were begun as missionary efforts to help uplift our community, this community should now demonstrate its decades of positive gains by ensuring that the institutions continue. Many religious orders no longer have the members or resources to continue educational institutions as part of their work, we must prepare to fill that gap.”
As of press time, rumors that Collins’ replacement had been named and that he is an alum and former member of the faculty, could not be confirmed.
This article was originally published in the February 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper