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
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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