Susan Paul has been a familiar face within the halls of Hill Murray High School for the past 20 years as the school's principal.

"I love working with kids and helping them figure out who they are in a safe environment -- I like helping them figure things out," she said. "It's all about helping them grow in their faith but not in a way that preaches to kids."

Even though Paul said she loves her position as principal and working with students, she said she is ready to take a different path.

On Jan. 28, Paul, of Shoreview, was named the new Hill Murray president by the school's board of trustees.

Hill Murray, located in Maplewood, is a private Catholic high school. Twenty percent of the school's students are from Woodbury.

The path to president

Paul began her Catholic education journey 31 years ago when she worked as a director of campus ministry and a religion teacher at Totino-Grace High School.

Paul received her undergraduate degree in religious studies and religious education from St. Mary's College. Paul also holds a master's degree in private secondary school administration and a doctorate of education in educational leadership form the University of St. Thomas.

Paul said she was drawn to the Catholic education route because it allowed her to help students discover who they are through faith.

"I wanted to be able to teach the academics curriculum in the context of what we believe," she said. "We help students grow into who God wants them to be."

When the position of Hill Murray president became available, Paul said she decided to apply for it because it was a chance for her to help with changes at the school.

"I wanted to be involved with shaping the future," she said. "I liked helping to make change and moving people in the right direction.

"It's really fun to impact that kind of important change."

Paul said her new position, as president, will be very different than her position as principal. As principal, Paul said she was in charge of the day-to-day tasks within the schools walls whereas the president oversees it all.

"This is going to be a big shift for me because the principal is focused on the day to day helping kids develop that faith within and guarding the integrity of that diploma," she said. "But president is overseeing all of that making external relationships."

The president's duties primarily include working with the surrounding communities and organizations, making relationships and even helping with accreditation of other institutions.

The Hill Murray vision

Now that Hill Murray is under the leadership of Paul, some new changes will be coming to the school.

The school's vision, which the entire school developed with the help of the community, is looking at ways to have more outreach to the community, better enrollment stability, establishing the school's Carholic identity, involving kids in extra curriculars or in the community and looking at possible boundary issues.

"The goals and priorities I have are shared goals among the school," Paul said. "We want to make sure that kids have an excellent experience here at the school."

Paul said in addition to looking at the school model as a whole, Hill Murray is also currently in the process of revamping its curriculum.

Paul said the curriculum redesign task force is currently looking at ways to address study skills, time management and balance.

"We want to balance the schedule with more cutting-edge programs," she said. "We've got some good plans."

Wearing two hats

For the interim, Paul will be both acting president and principal as the school begins the process for searching for a new principal.

At this point, the board of trustees and Paul have not yet sat down to discuss their vision for principal candidates.

"I want to see that we got somebody who can keep our standards high," Paul said. "A real top notch academic person."

Paul said the school is hoping to have a new principal in place by July 1.