Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Clarkston principal honored with NCEA award
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the Feb. 26, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Principal Sharon Clizer has a passion for Holy Family School of Clarkston. Her long-standing devotion was recognized this year when she received the Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association.
Dr. Duane Schafer, Spokane diocesan school superintendent, nominated Clizer for the award. Each diocesan superintendent nominates a principal, and then an NCEA representative and a committee choose one principal from each of the 12 NCEA regions.
Clizer was chosen to represent the Northwest, which includes the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. One of the 12 nominees will be selected for the National NCEA Distinguished Principal of the Year at the organization’s convention, slated for Boston later this year.
When she was offered the principal job 15 years ago, she wasn’t actually interested. “I didn’t even have my credentials,” she said. “I just wanted the principal to be someone who cared about the school.”
Clizer was highly qualified in that area long before she was ever on staff. Her own children were students at Holy Family and she spent many hours there. “I was a stay-at-home mom for 22 years,” she said. After her children were grown, she started taking courses at Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. When she “suddenly became single,” Clizer knew she would have to “hurry.” So she applied herself to 24 credits a quarter to earn a degree in elementary education.
She heard there was a teacher opening at Holy Family, but was reluctant to apply since she was divorced. However, the principal was impressed with how she had been a stay-at-home mother, and hired her. “He figured I would be a good person to work with kids,” she said. She taught third and fourth grade for five years before becoming principal.
After Clizer became principal, she drove the 40 miles from Clarkston to the University of Idaho in Moscow to earn her principal’s credentials. She earned her master’s degree at Washington State University in Pullman.
Clizer praises everyone connected with the school, from Holy Family Parish’s pastor, Father Leonard Forsmann, and Holy Family parishioners, to the staff and school parents. She receives good support from them all, she said. In particular, “Father Forsmann is always over here,” she said.
She also has a good working relationship with the public school system in Clarkston. Holy Family gets its daily hot lunch program tthrough the public school program and the Catholic school students ride the public school buses (for a fee). “We’re even included on their grant applications,” Clizer said.
When Clizer became principal, there were 87 students at Holy Family; now there are 130 in grades K-6, plus 45 in the preschool. She oversees a staff of about 20 people. She cares about people, and is noted for always sending thank-you notes.
To head a Catholic school is not easy, especially finding the money to keep it going. “It’s a perennial struggle,” Clizer said. The school holds a popular auction. “We get 400 or 500 items donated and everyone comes. It’s just tremendous,” she said.
Is Catholic education dying? Clizer doesn’t think so. As an example of long life, Holy Family School celebrated its 80th anniversary not long ago. “There’s an intense desire” for this kind of education, she said. “We’re wanting it for our kids.”
Clizer’s staff honored their principal and her award with a large bouquet of roses and a special plaque.