MBQ CEO of the Year Awards, 50-200 Employees

Barbara Daush, MBQ CEO Award Winner, 50-200 Employees

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MBQ CEO of the Year Winner, 50-200 Employees:  
Barbara Daush, St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School

COMPANY: St. Agnes Academy–St. Dominic School
ADDRESS: 4830 Walnut Grove Road, Memphis, TN 38117
WEBSITE: www.saa-sds.org
PHONE: (901) 767-1356
SERVICES PROVIDED BY ORGANIZATION: Education for girls PK–12 and boys PK-8
EDUCATION: B.A., Latin and Classical Studies, University of Mississippi; M.A., Guidance and Counseling, and M.A.T., English and Secondary Education, University of Memphis
WORK BACKGROUND: Former Latin teacher, Lausanne School; , Guidance Counselor, Assistant Head of School, Interim Head of School, and Head of Middle School, Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School; and Head of the Lower School, Hutchison School
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Since her time leading the school, enrollment has grown from 634 to 915. The campus has been reinvented through two major campaigns, which yielded three new buildings, renovated three existing buildings, re-purposed existing spaces, designed new playing fields and playgrounds, and created a pedestrian campus. The endowment has grown from less than $70,000 in 1994 to over $5.6 million. For its athletics, the school won Best of Preps Female Division Trophy three years in a row — no other independent school has ever accomplished this.
PROFESSIONAL AWARDS: Chair of the Board of Trustees, Southern Association of Independent Schools. Former Board Chair, Tennessee Association of Independent Schools and the Memphis Association of Independent Schools. Board Member, Tennessee Association of Independent Schools and the Division II Committee of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic As- sociation. Vice-Chair, Coalition of Apple Lighthouse Schools. Recipient of the Blessed Mother Award from Ave Maria; the Martin de Porres Award from St. Peter Church; the Blessed Heart of Mary Award from the Diocese of Memphis; and the Distinguished Service Award for Administrators from the TSSAA. Named to the Power Players in Private Schools by MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CEO? “The best book I have ever read was Jesus CEO [by Laurie Beth Jones]. This quote from the book keeps me grounded in what is truly important in lead- ing others and directing children through difficult times: ‘Hear and understand me. Even if you disagree, please don’t make me wrong. Acknowledge the greatness within me. Remember to look for my loving intentions. Tell me the truth with compassion.’”

While some kids choose to sleep through their classes, others are forging their own path. “My time in high school is what inspired my whole experience into education because my Latin teacher, Mary Louise Aste, was my favorite teacher,” says Barbara Daush, president and CEO of St. Agnes and St. Dominic. This path led her through several top private schools in Memphis and eventually to a school and position where she truly feels at home. She started out pulling double duty as a teacher and counselor while working on her master’s in guidance and counseling. Then, a funny thing happened. Through a series of events Daush became the assistant head of school. In her late twenties at the time, Daush says the opportunity allowed her to advocate for the classroom teacher while also relating to the concerns of parents.

She enrolled her sons at St. Dominic, leading to what she now considers her favorite part of her job, sharing the mission of the school. “I feel it’s my responsibility to give as much as I can to a school that has meant so much to me. I brought my boys here first, before I came to work here. They were here at St. Dominic, so as a parent I bought into the mission,” says Daush. While she wholeheartedly believed in the mission of St. Dominic, she never imagined she’d be called on to ap-ply for the position of president.

For starters, all of the previous presidents had been Dominican sisters, but many of the sisters went on to mission work, and the school felt it was time for a lay president. “I feel like I’m so blessed from having been here,” says Daush. “I’ve grown so much in my faith and in my appreciation for what the school means. I want to continue that sort of storytelling about the mission of the school.”

While being president of a school is indeed a business, it comes with added pressure to make sure every student is developing and on track. “The area I’ve grown the most in over the last 20 years is making sure we operate in the black,” says Daush. “Every year I’ve been here, we’ve done so. We had less than $100,000 in our endowment when I started, and now we have over $5 million. Which is awesome, but we don’t take anything out of the endowment to operate. So, I have to literally make sure that I bring in enough and don’t spend more than I bring in. In that regard, it’s not any different than any other business. And yet, I have to figure out how to help with tuition when the recession hit and meet the challenges parents have. I would say it’s a very challenging, human-centered business because you can’t ever take the child out of the equation.”

And Daush wouldn’t have it any other way. She says the greatest reward is to see a smile on a child’s face, and she’s eternally grateful to have the opportunity to bring God into the lives of her students.

As far as her mentor, and former Latin teacher is concerned, they still talk frequently and grab lunch often. “She’s a wonderful mentor and a wonderful lady.” And I’m sure Daush’s students would say the same of her.


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