Diocese names interim leaders at Helias

Board of directors to meet today to discuss presidential search

The Helias Board of Directors is meeting this morning to discuss the steps it will need to take to replace Didier “Di” Aur, who has served as the Catholic high school’s president since 2006.

Earlier this week, Aur informed the board and faculty he will finish out the school year and return to Memphis where he has accepted a job as principal at Resurrection Catholic School, one of nine inner city “Jubilee Schools” in the city.

According to a news release from the Diocese of Jefferson City issued Wednesday, Father Joseph Corel and Chancellor Sister Kathleen Wegman have been named interim director of Catholic schools and interim assistant director of Catholic schools, effective July 1. They will direct the transition and search for a new president of Helias, with the assistance of the school’s board of directors and local pastors.

The news release said Corel is looking forward to working with the people involved in the search.

“We understand that people are anxious to know what’s coming next, and we’ll be working on a timetable that we’ll make available as soon as possible,” he said.

Joe Pierle, who serves as chairman of the Helias Board of Directors, said it’s likely he’ll know more by noon today about the direction the board plans to take to replace Aur.

Speaking midday Wednesday, Pierle said he expects a search committee — composed of priests from the diocese, lay people and faculty — will be appointed to undertake the task, but he deemed it unlikely an outside consultant will be hired to help conduct the search. Advertising the position will probably happen through both formal and informal channels within the Catholic sphere, Pierle said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be able to recruit a quality, high-performing individual,” Pierle said.

As president of Helias, Aur handled not only the day-to-day operations of the school but also oversaw future planning and resource allocation.

Pierle credited Aur for setting the school on a path toward creating a strategic plan to guide Helias’ future. The document includes: proposals to boost the school’s enrollment numbers, suggestions for future facility expansion projects and methods for improving the school’s academic, fine art and athletic offerings.

“It’s almost done. I think we have only one or two more months of work,” Pierle said. “Mr. Aur has set us on that glidepath.”

Sherry Mariea — president of Helias Foundation, the school’s fundraising group — frequently talked with Aur about fundraising matters for the school and the school’s mission to educate all comers.

She said Aur believed in the ideal “that any kid who wanted a parochial, Catholic education would be able to afford to walk through those doors every day.”

Although Helias charges tuition, the foundation works to raise funds to supplement the expense of a parochial education.

“He believed that any student who wanted to go should be able to, regardless of their financial means,” Mariea said. “He was wonderful to work with because he was so passionate about this mission.”

Pierle said most people were not entirely shocked to learn of Aur’s career move.

As a native of Memphis, Aur said his decision “is 100 percent about family.” Both he and his wife, Kelly, have family in the area.

“He’s got a strong family pull to the Memphis area,” Pierle said. “But we appreciate his seven years of service.”

Before taking the position at Helias, Aur served as the first principal of Holy Names Catholic School, another of the Memphis diocese’s Jubilee Schools. The former parochial school had been closed since 1969, and Aur supervised building renovations, assembled a faculty and recruited students for the new school.

Aur is a former teacher and coach who holds a master of education degree in special education from the University of Memphis and a master of science in educational leadership from Christian Brothers University.

In the news release, Bishop John Gaydos said he was sorry to see Aur leave, but he added: “I am very grateful for the energy and dedication he brought every day to his leadership role” as president.

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