The Waldron Mercy Academy Board of Trustees has named Ann Marie Braca as the school’s 11th principal in 94 years, announced Kimberly Baxter, Board chair of the Catholic, private elementary school which opened in 1923. Braca begins her tenure on July 1, 2017, succeeding Nell Stetser, who concludes her 27-year career at Waldron Mercy, the last five as principal.
“Our Board conducted a rigorous search. We were very fortunate to interview several appealing candidates,” said Kimberly Baxter. “We chose Ann Marie for many reasons, particularly her accomplishments in curriculum development across all grade levels. We think her distributed leadership approach will continue to empower Waldron Mercy faculty and staff who are highly regarded for their ability to engage students in learning. Ann Marie’s personal experience with Mercy education truly make her a perfect fit for Waldron Mercy Academy.”
Since 2009, Braca has been principal of Holy Family Regional School in Phoenixville, Pa., which is a consolidation of several elementary parish schools in the area. There, Braca improved students’ results on standardized tests and successfully led the school through its Middle States reaccreditation. She updated Holy Family’s computer lab and equipped students with mobile technology, each appropriate for their grade level. She also enhanced service learning experiences for students.
With Braca’s leadership, Holy Family Regional School is now debt-free, and has a balanced budget and capital fund. The school also raised funds to provide more scholarships to students. During her tenure there, Holy Family earned the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, an honor also bestowed twice on Waldron Mercy Academy.
“We are delighted Ann Marie already is part of our Mercy education family,” added Baxter. “In fact, in 2008 and 2009 she volunteered to choreograph one of our school’s popular annual musicals featuring our second- through fourth-grade students.” Braca’s two daughters graduated from Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School where she also donated more than a decade of her talent and time as a volunteer for the school’s theater department.
“I truly appreciate the confidence Waldron Mercy Academy’s Board has placed in me,” stated Ann Marie Braca. “Based on my personal experience, I value how students and their families benefit from more than a superior academic education in a Mercy-sponsored school. The spirit of Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy, and her charism transformed my career as an educator. As a parent, I also know what it means ‘to live Mercy’ from my involvement with the Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School community.”
Since 2010, Braca demonstrated her commitment to making Catholic education available to more children through her volunteer service on the Board for the Foundation for Catholic Education and on the Chester County Advisory Council for Catholic Education. Braca earned a master of science in education from Gwynedd Mercy University and her bachelor’s degree from Villanova University.
Waldron Mercy’s Board also recognizes Nell Stetser for her significant role as the first layperson to serve as the school’s principal and advanced Waldron Mercy’s commitment to service learning as a way to prepare students to be effective, thoughtful citizens. Among her many achievements, Stetser restructured the school to better address the needs of our students by dividing responsibilities for curriculum into two positions, one for middle school and the other for the lower school. She also implemented a S.T.E.M. curriculum and enhanced the Spanish-language curriculum for first through eighth grade students.
The Board of Trustees is grateful for the women and men who served on the search committee. Chaired by Sister Rose Martin, RSM, the search committee dedicated six months to prepare for this transition. As part of its process to attract a pool of qualified candidates, the search committee conferred with others in the Waldron Mercy community who shared their insights and perspectives about attributes for a candidate.