New leadership looks to take local Catholic school system ‘into the future’

New leadership looks to take local Catholic school system ‘into the future’

Jennifer DeOliveira of East Providence has been appointed administrator of the Greater Woonsocket Catholic Regional School System.

WOONSOCKET – Jennifer DeOliveira has taken over leadership of the Greater Woonsocket Catholic Regional School System as administrator as of July 1.

DeOliveira, a native and resident of East Providence, will stay on in her current role as principal of Good Shepherd Catholic School, a post she has held since 2016. The promotion will effectively combine the two leadership positions, a decision GWCRS leadership said would better suit the organization’s needs going forward.

“We’re very confident and looking forward with Ms. DeOliveira becoming the new administrator, working with her and continuing the great school system that we’ve had,” said Michael Platek, incoming chairman of the GWCRS board of directors.

DeOliveira began her work in Catholic education in 1999 as a teacher at St. Matthew School in Cranston. She taught for several years at Monsignor Clarke School in Wakefield before becoming principal at Good Shepherd. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Rhode Island College in elementary education and psychology, a master of education degree in special education from Rhode Island College and is currently working toward a master of education degree in administration from Providence College.

DeOliveira said she looks forward to bringing new ideas to the school system, including an emphasis on community outreach and strengthening relationships with local priests.

“Definitely moving into 21st century learning (and) getting back into the community. I think that piece was definitely decreased over the years,” she said.

The Greater Woonsocket Catholic Regional School System was founded in 1972 by a group of 12 Woonsocket area parishes to provide Catholic education to the community. The system currently serves about 235 students at two schools, with grades pre-K through 2 attending Monsignor Gadoury School and grades 3 through 8 attending Good Shepherd.

DeOliveira will replace longtime GWCRS Administrator Paula Hurteau, who leaves the school system this year after more than 30 years as a teacher, principal and administrator. Though she officially retired last year, Hurteau stayed on as a part-time administrator while her replacement could be found.

“We’ve been through tough times over the years and great times over the years, and I think she’s going to take us into the future,” Hurteau said about DeOliveira.

Hurteau began working for the system in 1986 as a 7th- and 8th-grade English teacher at what was then Catholic Regional Junior High School on Gaulin Avenue. In 1994, she was named principal of St. Joseph School before becoming principal of Our Lady of Victories School in 1997 and Good Shepherd School in 2000. In 2001, she was named administrator of the school system.

The system has changed since Hurteau first began as a teacher, most noticeably in the backgrounds of its students. At one time, she estimated, more than 90 percent of the students came from Catholic families. Now, the school system draws from a variety of backgrounds and religious denominations, though DeOliveira said families are still interested in providing a Catholic education to their children.

“It’s the morals and values piece,” she explained. “People see that as being in a Catholic school, getting a well-rounded student.”

Platek said the school system looks to continue strengthening its programs and hopefully increase its enrollment as other Catholic schools struggle to stay open around the state. The schools have tried out new programs in the past few years, introducing a toddler program at Monsignor Gadoury and piloting a longer school day at Good Shepherd next year.

“Hopefully she’ll be the leader that can carry forward our schools for the next 20 years,” he said.

Another longtime leader in the region’s Catholic schools, Shawn Capron, is also retiring this year. Capron was appointed principal at Monsignor Gadoury in 2015 after working for close to 40 years at Father Holland Catholic School in Pascoag, where she served as teacher and principal from 1978 until the school closed in 2015. Platek said the board was still interviewing candidates for her replacement.