By Amy White
Special to The Texas Catholic
When St. Mary’s Catholic School in Sherman welcomed new principal, Danny Ledbetter, Father Martin Castañeda knew they’d found a man prepared to bring both his full heart and level head to the position.
“His whole entire background and who he is are just phenomenal,” said Father Castañeda, who as pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church served on the search committee for the school’s new principal. “His whole academic background is what we need for our vision of St. Mary’s.”
A native of McKinney, Ledbetter attended McKinney High School before working towards a bachelor’s degree in business administration and then a master’s in public service and administration from Texas A&M University. Ledbetter worked as a social studies teacher and soccer coach before proceeding to earn his PhD in public affairs from UT Dallas.
Ledbetter worked in McKinney for eight years, initially hired to write grants for the school district, Ledbetter moved into administration serving as an assistant principal at both the middle school and high school level.
“Danny is a wealth of knowledge,” said David Moliere, a former co-worker of Ledbetter’s at both Evans Middle School and McKinney North High School.
Moliere said Ledbetter’s brain for education is paired with a heart for it.
“When you sit down and speak to Danny,” he said, “you hear his heart for kids, his heart for people, his heart for teachers and lesson design.”
This love for education blossomed early in Ledbetter’s life, as he said he witnessed the profound impact that his mother had as a guidance counselor in the public school system.
“I still have people who come up and tell me just how loved she made them feel,” Ledbetter said.
Later experience as a volunteer at a head start school in Bryant, Texas further cemented this passion for education.
“I saw how powerful love can be in a child’s life,” he said.
This zeal for fruitful education, combined with his own experience in the school system, made the St. Mary’s principal position an ideal fit—but an additional factor attracted Ledbetter to the position: faith.
Though his wife Anne is a cradle Catholic, Ledbetter was raised Methodist. In an effort to learn more about his wife’s faith, Ledbetter began RCIA seven years ago with Mark Criss as his sponsor.
“He’s obviously highly educated, so he was asking lots of tough questions,” Criss said, “but what really convinced him was not so much the ‘head’ side of the process and learning all the catechism, but rather when he attended the Christ Renews His Parish weekend and his heart actually ‘got it.’”
After the retreat, Ledbetter decided to convert to Catholicism.
Now, Ledbetter cites the Catholicism of St. Mary’s as a major reason for its appeal.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to come to a place where I can live my Catholic faith while also doing what I love as a profession,” he said. “It’s just the best of both worlds.”
As principal, Ledbetter has big plans for the school, including an eventual expansion to include a high school.
“There are a lot of people desiring a Catholic high school up here,” he said. “We would really love to provide that for them.”
With its new principal, Moliere said the St. Mary’s community can be assured its future is in the right hands.
“Danny is going to bring a healthy mixture of the heart and the head, of love and common sense.”
Find more Back-to-School stories celebrating Dallas Catholic Schools in the Sept. 18 print edition of The Texas Catholic.