By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Erica Romero has ushered her school community through a time of challenges and change, setting it on a path toward success. Now her personal journey will lead her away from her home of the past six years and closer to her real home.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. This is my second home,” said Romero, who has served as principal of St. Philip & St. Augustine Catholic Academy since it opened its doors in 2015. “I feel like I’ve invested so much of myself into the school and the teachers.”
Romero will step down as the academy’s principal in June as she and her family relocate to Las Vegas, where she will assume the role of principal at Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School.
“It’s a move to get closer to my family, to my mother,” said Romero, who grew up in Los Angeles and has much of her family still in that area. “As my mom is getting older, I feel more of a need to be closer to her. It will give me more piece of mind to know that I’m close enough to just drive over when she needs me.”
Romero first came to Dallas in 2013, teaching and serving as the assistant principal at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Richardson. She was named principal of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School in 2014. A year later, she was part of a team that aided the southeast Dallas school’s merger with neighboring St. Augustine Catholic School, forming the academy.
“It’s definitely been a team effort. It’s not just me,” Romero said. “Everyone here is super invested into this community. It really makes a difference to know that they want the best for the kids and the community. All of that contributes to our growth and the strengthening of the school in terms of academics and Catholic identity.”
Signs of that community-driven spirit were on display early at the academy, said Romero, fondly recalling how families, students, faculty and volunteers came together the weekend before SPSA opened its doors for the first time as delays had postponed move-in efforts.
“We basically had a community move-in day that Saturday right before school started. It was amazing the turnout we had — not just from our parents and students, but also John Paul II High School students who came to help,” she said. “It was very moving to see everyone pitching in. It felt like it was ours. I think that was very special.”
Araceli Santiago, whose daughter is a second-grader at SPSA and whose son attended the school prior to being accepted to Cistercian Preparatory School, said Romero’s dedication and passion for the school community will be greatly missed.
“When I first met her, I saw an amazing person who wanted to serve her community and I wasn’t wrong at all,” said Santiago, who has worked with Romero not only as a parent but also as a member of the school’s advisory council and carnival committee. “She has always been concerned about the students and teachers of the school. She guides me to educate my children in the best way possible. I will miss her a lot but I know that God will guide her in the new chapter of her life and SPSA Catholic Academy will always remember her hard work and perseverance.”
Ginna Curts, an administrative assistant at the school, said Romero has made an impactful impression on the students at SPSA.
“They see her as a role model and acknowledge her work ethic,” Curts said. “The students can relate to her upbringing and feel that a great career is also within their reach.”
Curts, a lifelong parishioner at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church who was part of that parish school’s staff prior to the merger, credits Romero with guiding the blending of the two schools, adding that her leadership will be missed.
“I believe we will miss Dr. Romero’s ability to balance her high expectations of her faculty and students with her light heartedness,” she said. “She is intelligent, a person of faith and has a great sense of humor. She will be missed.”
Romero said its relationships like those that she will miss the most.
“You build up relationships with them and it is always difficult to not be able to see them daily. To know that you made a difference helps, but it is still difficult to leave,” she said.
Romero said she hasn’t had time to get excited about her upcoming move.
“I want to make sure everything is as good as I can get it here first. I have a lot of work to do between now and then,” Romero said, adding that while bittersweet she trusts in her faith as she makes the move. “I trust in God’s plan for me. I know that God put me here for a particular reason, and I know that God is calling me somewhere else for a particular purpose.”