When the 2019-20 academic year begins in August at St. Ann School in Metairie, it will be the first time in 39 years that Susan Kropog won’t be there greeting students, parents, faculty and staff.
After starting at the school as a classroom teacher in 1980, becoming assistant principal in 1987 and then principal in 1994, Kropog has retired. And she already knows what she will miss.
“I will miss everything about St. Ann School,” she said. “We have such a loyal, dedicated faculty and staff. I am also grateful for the many parents that have volunteered for the Home and School Club, the Family Fest, the Men’s Club and the School Advisory Council. As a young college graduate, I could never have imagined the wonderful friendships and relationships that I have developed through St. Ann School.”
Kropog, 60, began as a fifth-grade teacher in 1980. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southeastern Louisiana University and a master’s in education from the University of New Orleans.
“My first experience in teaching was when I was a young teenager volunteering as a Sunday school teacher for preschoolers during Mass at St. Jerome Church in Kenner,” she recalled. “I also baby-sat the neighborhood children. I always loved interacting with children.
"I changed my major from nursing to education at the end of my first year of college. Both my mom and my future mother-in-law, who coincidentally was a Catholic school elementary principal, helped me to reach the decision to go with the career that I was meant to have.”
St. Ann was growing when she was named assistant principal in 1987, she said.
“Sister Katherine Keane, the principal at the time, needed an assistant,” Kropog explained. “I had a master’s degree and administrative experience supervising students in the University of New Orleans graduate program for several summers. When I became assistant principal, I hoped to help expand the school and continue its great traditions.
“I remember that first year as assistant principal, how I missed the special relationship that the teacher has with her homeroom students. But I quickly realized that administration was rewarding in that I could take pride in the growth of every student, not just the students that I taught.”
Kropog was the first lay principal at St. Ann.
“My immediate goal was to continue the Catholic identity that I learned from teaching with the Salesian sisters,” she said. “My long-term goals were to continue to meet the challenges of education, which included the transition to an academic prekindergarten four and prekindergarten three programs with certified teachers. I also knew that with more working families, we needed to expand our extended care and holiday care programs.”
In January 2018, Kropog was diagnosed with Stage 1 triple negative breast cancer through a routine mammogram.
“Although it was small, this cancer was very aggressive, and I had to take a leave the rest of the school year to receive a very powerful chemotherapy, then surgery. I am now cancer free and the prognosis is excellent,” she said.
Lindsay Guidry will begin as St. Ann’s new principal this summer. She has worked with Kropog since spring 2005.
“As a leader, Mrs. Kropog has shown enduring dedication to shaping the future of St. Ann,” said Gudiry, who was a second-grade teacher and is currently the curriculum coordinator. “St. Ann School is thriving due to the vision and mission established and implemented by Mrs. Kropog. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to serve on her leadership team and learn from her guidance and support.”
Kropog and her husband, Olin, live in Metairie and have been married 39 years. They have two sons.
“My husband is retired, so we hope to spend more time traveling,” Kropog said. “I also look forward to having more time to get together with family and friends. I will give retirement a little while, but I am certain that I will get involved in volunteer work.”
The Rev. Billy O’Riordan, pastor of St. Ann Church, has worked with Kropog for five years. “Mrs. Kropog will be remembered as an outstanding administrator and for making St. Ann the school it is today,” he said.
As she completes her last few weeks as principal, Kropog said she hopes to be remembered for collaborative decision-making.
“I have gained so much by working with others and for moving our school forward in the best interest of the students,” she said. “Each morning, I end the announcements to the students with the words ‘think, reach, shine.’ I know our students and St. Ann School will continue to thrive.”