Youth research

Top Catholic leader marks milestone

Dr Barbara Nazelrod, President of the Catholic High School of Baltimore, meets with parents of prospective eighth graders participating in Shadow Day on October 7, 2021. (Kevin J. Parks / CR Staff)

Hello Day at Baltimore Catholic High School celebrates the freshmen, transfer students, and teachers of East Baltimore School.

This is one of Dr. Barbara Nazelrod’s favorite events. Welcome day, when new girls are paired up with ‘big sisters’ and cheerleaders cheer on newbies, is a tradition that shows what kind of place the 80-year-old school is.

“There is a strong sense of brotherhood and community,” said Nazelrod, who this year marks her 20th year as president, making her the oldest school principal in the archdiocese.

After 28 years in Baltimore County Public Schools, he was asked to run the school in 2001 – and turned down. Then she had what she called her “St. Paul’s experience.”

“I felt a sense of mourning for saying no,” said the 1968 Catholic high school graduate.

So she changed her mind and got to work on three goals: improving the school building, reaching out to alumni, and strengthening academics.

Catholic High School of Baltimore President Dr. Barbara Nazelrod shares a laugh with a parent during morning drop-offs on October 7, 2021 (Kevin J. Parks / CR Staff)

She oversaw improvements to make the campus more welcoming, built the alumni base, and added a variety of new STEM programs – becoming the first Catholic school in the Archdiocese to focus on science, technology, engineering and math – to expanded artistic offerings such as the marching band and the marching band and the Archangel program for students who need extra help.

To honor his leadership, the gallery was renamed in his honor on September 10.

“We wanted to honor Dr. Nazelrod’s continued leadership and dedication to his alma mater by naming the gallery in his honor,” said Megan Morales, Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Gwendolyn R. Grant, Director of Institutional Advancement, and her team came up with the idea.

“She chose to use her God-given talents in the Catholic school to ensure that her students have a Christ-centered and academically stimulating environment in which to develop their own gifts,” noted the Dr Donna Hargens, Superintendent of Catholic Schools.

Nazelrod says she hasn’t finished yet.

“I still have a lot of ideas and luckily a great team supporting them,” she said. “I really believe in what I do. I am part of the mission here.

It’s a place she has loved since she was a student.

“Everything I saw was perfect,” she recalls. “I loved every minute of it. I loved the values. I loved the education.

In Catholic high school everything is taught through a Franciscan lens, she said, noting that “you cannot be in our school for five minutes without knowing that it is a Franciscan school”.

Sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Catholic High has just under 300 girls from 67 postcodes.

Dr. Nazelrod’s devotion to school and the Franciscan spirit impressed Franciscan Sister Ann Dutrow, Mission Director of the Catholic High School. She recalled a recent staff retreat at First Fruits Farm, a Christian farm dedicated to alleviating hunger in the Mid Atlantic region, when Dr Nazelrod got on all fours with everyone and dug potatoes.

Dr Barbara Nazelrod, president of Baltimore Catholic High School, works the potato harvest at Fresh Fruits Farm in Sparks during a recent staff outreach project. (Courtesy of Baltimore Catholic High School)

“This team spirit is a big part of the school and she models it well,” Sister Ann said.

Building relationships at the school and with the surrounding community was also a hallmark of Dr. Nazelrod’s tenure, according to Sister Ann. She joined community meetings, invited neighborhood groups to meet at school, and hosted former students of closed Catholic high schools. “A characteristic of Franciscanism is to have relationships with one another,” said Sister Ann.

Patricia Bonner McElroy, Catholic High Board Chair and Class Member of 1978, praised Nazelrod’s efforts to keep the school financially strong.

“She is always ready to learn because she is always committed to the school,” she said.

McElroy highlighted Nazelrod’s involvement in the Belair-Edison neighborhood, her excellent faculty and staff, and her commitment to academics – for all girls.

“She was innovative in studies and didn’t forget about struggling children,” she said. McElroy’s own daughter, Molly, a 2013 graduate, participated in the Archangel program and is now studying for her Masters in Social Work.

“Dr. Nazelrod has changed the lives of many girls,” Molly McElroy said. “She believes in them.”

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