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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 22, 2003 Issue 

Mother-daughter bond includes job share

Communication is key to 'half-principal' success

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

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 "half-principals."

"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 life."

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 listed three:

• 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 watching children.

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 week.

Rottier may go in to work on projects such as the children's choir or eighth grade drama. Terrien usually goes to board meetings.

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 written calendar.

• 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 day."

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 equipment.

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 equipment.

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 concluded.

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