Mother-daughter bond includes job share
Communication is key to 'half-principal' success
By Joanne Flemming
At St. John School, Little Chute, Mary Terrien and Holly Terrien
Rottier are proving that two principals can be better than one.
The mother-daughter team is starting their fourth year as the
school's administrators. Although they are officially
co-principals, they like to refer to themselves as
"It's challenging," said Terrien of the job, "(but) there are
two of us. We're up to it."
The two started working together five years ago when Terrien was
principal at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in
Pulaski. Rottier was working on her master's degree in education
administration at Marian College in Fond du Lac and needed a school
at which she could do her six-month practicum.
She chose to train with her mother, not because Terrien was her
parent, but because, as Rottier put it, "she's darn good at what
she does. I knew I could learn a lot from her because I have all my
When her practicum was complete, Rottier stayed on another six
months at Pulaski as co-principal. The following school year the
two moved to Little Chute. Rottier was already a member of St. John
Parish and had been a volunteer music teacher in the school.
What are their secrets to making their "job share" work? The two
Family peace. "There's no jealousy," Terrien said, adding
that she, her three daughters and other family members have always
had close relationships.
Scheduling. When one is at work, the other is at home
According to Rottier, her mother, who lives in Ashwaubenon,
starts every day at 5 a.m. She picks up her granddaughter, Olivia,
at daughter Natalie's home. She and the child drive to Darboy where
Rottier lives. Olivia spends the day with Rottier's two children,
Cameron 4, and Renie, 2.
Then either Terrien or Rottier go to school, while the other
baby-sits. The two have no set days they are in Little Chute.
Sometimes one might be there one, two, three days, or even the full
Rottier may go in to work on projects such as the children's
choir or eighth grade drama. Terrien usually goes to board
At times, both are present for an event.
"We want people to understand that we're both just as important
as the other, and each represents both of us whenever we are
there," said Rottier.
Natalie is expecting a baby in late September, the principals
pointed out. Then one of them will stay with four children. Terrien
added that her parents and mother-in-law - the great grandparents -
help out occasionally with babysitting and will do more in fall. If
no sitter is available, the children accompany their mother and/or
grandmother to work.
Occasionally Terrien and Rottier attend meetings at the diocesan
offices. Terrien may drive back and forth between Green Bay and
Little Chute a couple times a day for work.
When their schedules get too complicated, they work out a
Good communication. That's what makes it work," said
Rottier. The women are constantly in touch. They take notes on
their laptop computer and phone each other around "30 times a
At the end of the day, before Terrien drives home, they spend an
hour talking over school business.
"Two minds can create a solution," Terrien explained. "Two
people know the whole story, and we can lean on each other."
The women agreed that the one drawback to working together is
that they talk school business constantly, even at gatherings.
Family members have asked them to stop.
Sometimes staff members are confused about how the two work
together, Rottier pointed out. On a day she is working, a teacher
may tell her about a problem that was related to her mother.
Rottier reminds her that she already knows and that staff should
treat the co-principals "as if we are one person."
One of the first challenges the two faced when they started
working together was deciding on what to call each other. They
began by referring to each other as "Mrs. Terrien" and Ms.
Rottier." However, they laughed, Rottier and staff were soon
referring to Terrien as "my Mom" or "your mother."
The challenge they currently face is the construction at St.
John Church and the school. They have to deal with finding places
for parents to drop off and pick up students. Classrooms are
shifting around; the school playground is full of construction
The school is getting new classrooms. The old stage has been
made into two for art and Spanish classes. Land has been donated
for a playground, and the Home-School Association is getting new
Terrien and Rottier said the two put together a wish list for
the school four years ago. It included more classrooms, a new gym
floor, aides for each grade, and a renovated teachers' lounge,
among other things. "There's not a thing left," the women said.
The two plan to always work together. "I feel we are more like
real close colleagues rather than mother and daughter," Rottier