The president of St. Joseph’s Academy, Sister Adele Lambert, CSJ, announced Thursday that she is retiring in May at the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

Linda Harvison is continuing as the principal of the all girls Catholic high school. Harvison is the first lay person to hold that post.

Both women assumed their positions in 2004, when the school shifted from having a lone principal to a president-principal division of power.

“In the last year, Miss Harvison and I have accomplished some of the goals we set out to achieve,” Lambert said.

In particular, she noted the school’s new black box theater that recently broke ground and is scheduled to open next summer. This visual and performing arts space is part of an effort to broaden the school beyond its traditional strength in academics.

“The mission that I was given as the first president was to sort of refound the mission of St. Joseph’s Academy, to offer a balance of academic excellence with personal growth,” Lambert said.

Lambert is a 1954 graduate of St. Joseph’s and spent her career in education.

Harvison, in a statement, complimented Lambert.

“It has been my privilege to serve alongside Sister Adele these past seven years,” said Harvison, a 1966 graduate of the high school. “We have worked hand in hand to continue to fulfill the Academy’s mission, a mission that has been a part of my life since I entered the first-grade.

“She leads us with gentleness, joy and peace, and that spirit will never be forgotten,” Harvison added.

According to her bio, Lambert served on the faculty and as principal of schools in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, as well as on the faculty of a school in Bay St. Louis, Miss. She returned to her alma mater in 2004 from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, where she held several positions.

As president as St. Joseph’s Academy, Lambert said her job has been to serve as kind of chief executive officer, handling finance; business; fundraising; and keeping the “big picture in mind.” Meanwhile, Harvison’s job as principal has been as more of a chief operating officer, who oversees the daily activities of the school.

A leadership search committee has been formed, chaired by Sister Lucy Silvio, chair of the board of directors for Congregation of St. Joseph Ministries. The committee will launch a nationwide search in October with the goal of hiring the next president by December, according to the announcement.

Lambert said the next school president need not be part of a religious order like her.

“We would love to have to the best person we can,” she said.

“We don’t have many religious women in our congregation who are still in education who can serve in this capacity,” she said.

Lambert said she’s not sure what she wants to do next, though she plans to stay involved with St. Joseph’s.

“There will be a lot of opportunities in the church and the community,” she said. “I like to volunteer.”