National Catholic Education Association to honor local Catholic school principal Karen Carter

OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 20, 2013) – The National Catholic Education Association Elementary Schools Department has named Karen Carter, principal of Christ the King Catholic School in Oklahoma City, a "National Distinguished Principal."

Every year, the NCEA Elementary School Department bestows the title of "National Distinguished Principal" on a select number of outstanding Catholic elementary school principals – approximately one from each of the 13 regions that comprise the department. The department will publicly recognize the recipients of the award – including Carter – at a ceremony in Pittsburgh, Penn., in the spring of 2014.

"I was very surprised and humbled and honored to receive the award," Carter said. "It’s an affirmation of what I’ve been doing, but it’s also an affirmation of my pastor, my school, my faculty and staff and other principals in the archdiocese because we work very closely together and I couldn’t do what I do without their support."

Carter has been the principal of Christ the King Catholic School for the past five and a half years. As principal, Carter has initiated a number of programs to improve the academic offerings of the school and to build faith community.


She parlayed a grant to hire a part-time Latin teacher, for example, thereby granting her students the rare opportunity to engage an ancient language in elementary school. With the assistance of a former School Advisory Council member who works in the oil and gas industry, she initiated a resource sharing program to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction.

Notably, whenever teachers distribute report cards to their students, she personally takes the time to pen notes of encouragement or appreciation to students who are struggling or excelling.

"Student learning takes a priority at our school," Carter says. "We try to limit assemblies and other special activities to preserve time in class. We do have special activities but they must have an instructional purpose.

"Our school sometimes receives concerns that our expectations are too high and occasionally parents will advocate for less stringent grading and homework," she added. "We do not apologize for high expectations, and I tell both current and prospective students that this may not be for everyone."

Christ the King pastor Rick Stansberry said Carter "is a model of faith and stability."

"She is much loved by the students, parents and faculty," Father Stansberry said. "I can’t tell you on a weekly basis how many people tell me she is the best thing that ever happened to our school."

Catholic schools superintendent Dr. Cris Carter – no relation – echoed Father Stansberry.

"Her calm, gentle faith has instilled a strong sense of mission, purpose and confidence within the faculty, staff, students and the entire parish community," Dr. Carter said. "She is an outstanding spiritual leader, and she clearly understands that a Catholic school needs to be a place that is different, and Christ the King is indeed holy ground. … The atmosphere of joy, respect and prayerfulness is so evident throughout the building."

Teacher Amy Feighny and parent Deborah Gavula had high praise, as well.

"I am truly blessed to work for Karen Carter," Feighny said. "Through her actions and knowledge, she has shown what a steward of Christ should look like."

Gavula said she appreciates Carter’s "wisdom and grace."

"We admire her for her calm personality, her faith-filled spirit, value her opinion and depend on her," said Gavula. "I never hesitate to contact her with questions because I know she is fair and reasonable, and I can count on her to give me immediate feedback. … Her integrity, confidentiality and consistent follow-through are admirable."

In the past, Karen Carter has also served as principal at Saint Patrick Catholic School in Wichita, Kan., Rosary Catholic School in Oklahoma City and Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Saint Thomas, Mo. In addition, she has extensive classroom teaching experience.

She has been involved with the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the private schools arts organization PParts, the Oklahoma Blood Institute, the Catholic Charities Task Force on Substance Abuse and Our Lady’s Rosary Makers.

In 2005, she was a finalist for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Catholic School Educator of the Year Award, and, in 1989, she was a nominee for the National Catholic Education Association Sallie Mae Award.

Carter has a Master of Science in Education from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., with a bachelor of arts in education. She also has an associate’s degree in applied science in dietetics from Penn Valley Community College.

The NCEA not only recognizes excellent principals with the "National Distinguished Principal" title; it also uses the program to surface nominees for the U.S. Department of Education National Distinguished Principal Award, which is sponsored by the National Association of Elementary Schools Principals.


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