Catholic Herald staff
Betty Swiston, the principal of Our Lady of the Lake School in Ashland, is the 2017 recipient of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award.
Since 1989, the award has been presented to a teacher, administrator or other school staff member whose outstanding contribution to quality education helps the Diocese of Superior fulfill its mission.
Swiston received the recognition during the Catholic Schools Week north region Mass on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Bishop James P. Powers and superintendent of schools Peggy Schoenfuss presented the award.
With more than 35 years serving Catholic education in the Bay Area, Swiston is credited by Our Lady of the Lakes pastor Fr. Paul Paré and business administrator Ric Johnson with leading the complete turn-around of the Ashland school.
A primary factor was Swiston’s diligent efforts to make OLL the first Wisconsin School Choice program participant north of Wausau. This resulted in giving 25 low-income families access to quality education in a faith-based environment, and a 30 percent increase in overall enrollment.
In addition to increased publicity and visibility for the school, “local buzz” has been created. As Johnson and Fr. Paré wrote in Swiston’s submitted nomination, “She has helped transform our school from one that was dying to one that is now vibrant and the ‘the place’ for children to go to school in Ashland.”
With Swiston’s respected and unassuming leadership, Johnson and Fr. Paré said staff turnover has been eliminated, with OLL becoming a place teachers want to teach. The Home and School Committee has increased membership; there have been expansions in technology and upgrades to the curriculum. The implementation of energy efficiency measures has also led to cost savings for the school in the thousands of dollars.
“Three years ago, Betty came on board as principal, and due to her tireless efforts and leadership, we are thriving again,” Johnson wrote.
In an interview with the Ashland Daily Press, Swiston commented on her strong belief in the Catholic education system that “brings children to believe in Jesus and to carry on the faith of Jesus to all that they meet.”
“I am very honored to receive this award and grateful to all the people in my life that have helped me in my faith journey,” Swiston commented.