Oi named new principal at St. Therese School
October 5, 2018

Lisa Deborah Oi has been named new principal at St. Therese Chinese Catholic School.

A local elementary school with a long record of academic successes has turned to in-school talent for its future leadership. Lisa Deborah Oi, a veteran teacher and assistant principal has been named principal of St. Therese’s Chinese Catholic School at 247 W. 23rd St., which is a part of the Archdiocese of Chicago school system.
A search committee, chaired by the Rev. Francis Li, pastor of St. Therese Parish, chose Oi, who most recently served as interim principal. She replaces Phyllis Cavallone-Jurek, who joined the Office of Catholic Schools at Archdiocese of Chicago as school system administrator.

In many ways, Oi said, her becoming principal was just the next step in parish involvement that began many years ago.

The school has always embraced its students’ history and cultures, offering a “way for students to be very proud of their identity,” she said. That philosophy helped her then, and she hopes to build on it in her new job. “I always knew that this was my calling,” she said.

From the start, Oi felt comfortable with the high academic standards and respect for cultural traditions at St. Therese. She joined the St. Therese faculty and taught second grade for several years before being becoming assistant principal six years ago. 

Her experiences as teacher and assistant principal were invaluable in preparing to become principal, she said. Whether meeting with a parent anxious about a child’s progress or dealing with a child seeking help and direction while navigating a complicated new experience, Oi said she feels a kinship because she has gone through many of those difficult passages herself. “I’ve always used my personal journey” to help bond with individual students and their families, especially if they are facing difficult challenges, she added. Oi also feels a kinship with parents as her children have attended and graduated from St. Therese.

St. Therese Development Director Elizabeth Fieweger described the school as surprising to many, particularly in its diversity—an attribute Oi points to with pride. About 70% of St. Therese’s students identify as Asian; the remaining 30% are Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Black, White, or Multi-Racial.

Fieweger mentioned many prestigious cultural programs in which students participate, including dance and musical performances at many major Chicago events, but emphasized the world-class academic programs St. Therese.

Oi agreed with Fieweger about the strong focus on academics at St. Therese. The school meets or exceeds Common Core curriculum standards. St. Therese also teaches Mandarin and Spanish to all students from Pre-K to grade 8. The school has a strong emphasis on technology in all subjects as well as teaching computer programming in grades K-8 to promote critical thinking skills.

St. Therese does not have a special education focus, although it meets students’ special learning needs with specialist support services and accommodations, Fieweger said.

St. Therese graduates attend selective parochial high schools such as Saint Ignatius College Prep as well as Chicago Public School selective enrollment high schools such as Walter Payton College Prep and Whitney Young High School, Oi said.

The 2018-19 school year opened at St. Therese with an enrollment of about 300 students (pre-K through eighth grade). The school has recently been awarded its second National Blue Ribbon Award for School Excellence.

Oi said the school has a waiting list of prospective students, and Fieweger said the area around the school is growing.

That philosophy helped her then, and she hopes to build on it in her new job. “I always knew that this was my calling,” she said.

For more information, log on to www.sttheresechicago.org.

— Sheila Elliott