Anna E. Parra, president, Maria Regina High School

Local heads of school in Westchester, Fairfield and Dutchess counties talk about lessons learned from the pandemic, inspiration, superpowers, what makes them smile and – in one case – the benefits of dogs on campus.

Founded in 1957 as the first New York archdiocesan girls’ high school in Westchester County, Maria Regina is an independent Roman Catholic school in Hartsdale, dedicated to educating young women in grades nine through 12. 

Anna E. Parra has just completed her second year as president of Maria Regina. A graduate of both Fordham University (B.S.) and The College of New Rochelle (M.S.), she has dedicated the majority of her career to working in schools for the archdiocese, most recently as president of Aquinas High School and earlier as executive director of development for the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, both in the Bronx. She is the mother of two children.

Tell us something surprising about your school.  

“Maria Regina will be celebrating 65 years of educating young women in 2022. We have graduated over 10,000 students who have been inspired with the charism of the Sisters of the Resurrection, our foundresses and who have been instilled with our pillars of scholarship, service and spirit. We look forward to celebrating the school’s rich history, our current community and the future with much promise.” 

How did your school cope during the pandemic? 

“Although a very difficult year for everyone, especially faculty and students, we followed our reopening plan and all guidance and protocols. Our school principal, (Maria) Carozza-McCaffrey, and I worked together and did our best to have a successful school year. Although we look forward to being fully in-person in September and holding in-school events, we plan to utilize remote learning and meetings when convenient or needed. It is a Plan B we now have in place.”

Which aspects of running a school are most appealing to you? 

“Being involved in projects to provide new resources for our students and implement enhancements to better serve our community.” 

What superpower do you bring to the school?  

“I feel that my joy permeates all that I do. I truly enjoy the work I am doing and I am grateful for the talented and dedicated administration, faculty and staff I have here. I am proud and blessed to be part of this wonderful community, which is really my second family.” 

What led you to choose education as a career?

“I cherish the value Catholic school education has brought to my life. I am and will always be committed to seeing a spiritually devoted and academically rigorous curriculum continue to be an option for families.” 

Did you have a favorite teacher who impacted your life? 

“My favorite teacher is Professor Teri Gamble whom I met during my master’s studies at The College of New Rochelle. She brought so much to the communications program that it inspired me to do more than just fundraise. I made the decision that I wanted to be part of a Catholic school community where I could make a difference and positively impact students, alumnae, parents and the greater community. In addition, I wanted to mentor others to help continue the work we are doing to keep our schools viable for many years to come.”

Tell us about an encounter that reaffirmed your career choice. 

“A student was having difficulty in her sophomore year and her mother contemplated withdrawing her — although the young woman wanted to continue her education through graduation. After assuring both that the student would have every resource available to her to complete her education, they decided to stay. At graduation when I conferred her diploma, the student hugged and thanked me. She wrote me a beautiful note explaining how grateful she was and how much my support meant to her. Being able to make an impact in someone’s life, especially to obtain her dream of completing her education in a Catholic school, is what brings so much fulfillment to my life.” 

What do you do to recharge in your free time? 

“I work out when I can, play the guitar on occasion and spend time with my family.” 

Maria Regina High School  at a glance

  • Head of school: Anna E. Parra
  • Number of faculty and staff: 65
  • Student enrollment: 500 girls
  • Annual tuition: $12,850

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