School of St. Mary Welcomes a New Principal
By Rebecca Foster-Goodman After working in public schools for 34 years, Dr. Julie Brua has entered a new chapter as the principal at the private School of St. Mary in Lake Forest. Sitting in her office on the second day of her new job, where the walls are freshly painted, Brua looks around and smiles. She feels extremely fortunate to have joined St. Mary.
“I thought: How can I use my educational background and work with kids, as well as integrate my faith?" says Julie Brua about joining the School of St. Mary as its principal.
“I did a lot of homework before coming here,” she said. “To see the achievements of the students and the staff, including three Blue Ribbons for excellence (from the U.S. Department of Education), is really impressive. There are so many opportunities here for kids to excel through sports and clubs. And I love the mission statement – to learn, to serve, to lead. As a leader, I find that very inspiring.”
Brua grew up in western Illinois and attended the University of Illinois. A firm believer in schools and the power that comes from education, she grew up in a family that placed a high value on the local school district. “My father was on the school board, and my mom was the school secretary,” Brua said. “School was always the way to improve yourself and move forward in your pursuits and passions.”
After working as a teacher for 13 years, she transitioned to the administrative side of education. She has held the positions of assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent in a number of districts on the North Shore. Recently, she retired from public education after holding the position of superintendent of Gavin District in Ingleside for four years. But the closer she got to retirement, the more she realized she wasn’t quite done with education. “I just didn’t feel like I was ready to be done working with kids,” she said. “I thought: How can I use my educational background and work with kids, as well as integrate my faith? That’s when I reached out to the Archdiocese of Chicago and started the interview process.”
Education is more than a job to Brua; it as a calling. “I’ve never looked at one day of work as work,” she said. “Whether you’re a classroom teacher or a building administrator, every day is an exciting and new adventure. And with every decision I make, I always put the focus and the importance on the kids.”
Brua comes to St. Mary’s with an extensive resume of educational achievements, including passing referendums and securing Blue Ribbons. She is familiar with all aspects of education but is really excited to be back in a hands-on position with students. And she has already seen how important St. Mary’s is to its families. “I am impressed with the legacies at this school. I have met teachers that attended St Mary’s as students, as well as alumni parents that now send their kids here. That says a lot about a school, to have such a strong tradition of attendance. People love it here, and I hope to keep those traditions going.”
Though she is not quite sure what COVID restrictions and requirements will be in place come August, Brua is optimistic for the year ahead. “Our attendance numbers continue to grow, which gives us a better opportunity to reach more kids academically, as well as spiritually,” Brua said. “My greatest hope is that our kids move forward and build on this resiliency that comes after making it through a pandemic.” She once again smiled and looked around at her new office. “I feel really blessed to be a part of the School of St. Mary.”