New St. Joseph's Catholic School principal looking to build up

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 4, 2013 

st. joseph saint catholic school private

Bob Seidel is the new principal at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Kennewick.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The new principal at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Kennewick has wandered far and wide because of his faith.

Bob Seidel has worked on youth evangelization efforts in the United States and as a student life director for a Catholic university in Ohio. He has overseen a study abroad program while living in Austria and worked as a teacher and principal in private Catholic schools in the Midwest.

But the 49-year-old native Minnesotan and father of five said he has found a long-term home at St. Joseph's. More importantly, he said, his position is an opportunity to share the importance of faith and education with the school's almost 250 students.

"We want to have rigorous academics but also dynamic and orthodox Catholicism," Seidel told the Herald.

Seidel is the second principal at St. Joseph's since Ralph LeCompte retired at the end of the 2011-12 school year. School leaders and parents didn't provide details about changes in the school's main office but said they are excited for Seidel's future at the school.

"He's got several qualities that are outstanding," said Ronald St. Hilaire, president of the school's advisory committee and father of four students.

Seidel was born and raised in Minneapolis in a large Catholic family. He attended private Catholic school and said participation in the faith was expected and his parents were good role models.

He said he fell into partying in high school but had what he called a conversion moment following confession his senior year. It was the first step toward realizing a call to work with youth on their faith and led to a drastic change in his social life. He said his friends shunned him.

"I spent a quiet senior year," Seidel said. "In a sense, it was a sacrifice."

He graduated in 1981 but put off college. He instead worked in Catholic youth evangelization efforts with the National Evangelization Team. Seidel said his work on the team made him realize he could strengthen the faith of youth by being an educator.

He went on to earn a bachelor's and two master's degrees and also built up experience working with young people during the past few decades. He was a residence hall director and director of student life at his alma mater before going to Europe to oversee the university's study abroad program for several years. He also has worked in youth ministry and as a teacher or principal at several Catholic schools in the Midwest.

His latest position had him and his family living outside Minneapolis. But Seidel wanted to move up, and absent any positions in the Twin Cities, he heard about the opening at St. Joseph's.

"I'm interested in wherever God wants me to be," he said. However, Seidel's wife and children are staying in Minneapolis for another year to ease the transition.

St. Hilaire said the school's hiring process is confidential and wouldn't provide details. However, he said Seidel's experience working in private Catholic schools, the value he places on teachers and his dual emphasis on faith and learning were big selling points.

"As a parent, that's what we're looking for," St. Hilaire said.

Bebe Paoli, a teaching assistant at the school and a parent, said she was impressed with Seidel when she met him along with other staff members.

"He appeared to have the strongest faith-based background as an educator," she said.

School officials declined to comment on the departure of Suzanne Siekawitch, his predecessor. Siekawitch was principal at St. Patrick's School in Pasco before taking over for LeCompte. She reportedly left before the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Seidel said the principals before him were great people with great ideas. He said he sees part of his job as working with parents, teachers and students to build on those ideas. He also wants to hear from the school's patrons about their concerns and praises and spreading news about the school.

"We do a really bad job of telling people about the good things we do," Seidel said. "We're bad at marketing."

But Seidel said no project or goal can be rushed. He talked about how century-old homes in his native Minneapolis have no cracks in their walls or sagging floors because they were built carefully and over several years if necessary.

"What I want to do with St. Joseph's is making sure we're taking time," he said.

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