Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory has appointed Kelly Branaman as the new Secretary for Catholic Schools and Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington. Branaman, who has held leadership roles in Catholic education for the archdiocese since 2003, had been serving as the interim superintendent.

“Since my own appointment in Washington, I have personally seen in Kelly a faith-driven and experienced school administrator, who has played a critical part in our Catholic schools operations and planning since the beginning of this pandemic,” Archbishop Gregory said in announcing the appointment. “In Kelly, we have a leader who is pastoral, strategic, knowledgeable, approachable and dependable.”

The appointment was announced Aug. 12, and Branaman will assume her new post Aug. 17.

“My goal as Secretary for Catholic Schools and Superintendent of Schools is to lead and support our schools to continue the strong formation and excellence for which they are known in our community,” Branaman said in expressing her “sincere gratitude and appreciation” for her new position.

Branaman replaces William Ryan III, the Archdiocese of Washington’s secretary for Catholic schools for the past year and superintendent of the archdiocese’s Catholic schools for the previous four years, who stepped down June 30 to become superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.

As the new Secretary for Catholic Schools and Superintendent of Schools, Branaman said her job will be to take “a more active role in front as opposed to behind the scenes, including a greater role working with pastors, specifically pastors newly assigned to schools.” 

“I can’t say enough how great our principals are and how great our pastors are and what a wonderful job they are doing,” she added.

A 17-year veteran of the Archdiocese of Washington's Catholic Schools Office, Branaman served for the past six weeks as the archdiocesan interim superintendent of Catholic schools. 

During her tenure in the Catholic Schools Office, Branaman has held a variety of positions, including special education director and support services coordinator, curriculum director, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, associate superintendent, and associate superintendent for strategic planning and school operations. She also previously served as interim superintendent of schools in 2015 as a search was underway that ultimately led to Ryan being hired.

“It is a privilege to share in and extend Archbishop Gregory’s teaching ministry through the leadership of our Catholic schools,” Branaman said.

This past spring and summer, Branaman took an active role in the Archdiocese of Washington’s Reopening of Schools Task Force that devised plans and educational models to safely reopen Catholic schools at the start of the new school year.

“Reopening our schools in a manner that is safe for our students and faculty has been our priority,” she said. “We have been following health and safety protocols based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, local health departments, and local jurisdictions.”

Branaman said that in her new role, she will continue to work on the Catholic Schools Office’s five-year strategic plan. This upcoming school year will be the fourth year in the long-range plan that includes meeting with teachers, principals and parents “to formulate initiatives that are in line with the four pillars of Catholic education.” Those pillars are: Catholic identity; academic excellence; affordability and accessibility; and governance.

“I look forward to continuing the great work in our schools that has already been accomplished as a part of our Archdiocese of Washington Strategic Plan,” she said. “This fall we welcome the national accreditation team to affirm the work of our strategic plan that has framed priorities and goals for our schools in the areas of Catholic identity, academic excellence, affordability and enrollment and governance.” 

Over the years, Branaman has been recognized for her contributions to Catholic education. In 2017, she was honored on the national level when the National Catholic Educational Association presented her with a Lead. Learn. Proclaim. Award for diocesan leadership. 

Branaman, a Harvard University Graduate School of Education Strategic Data Project Fellow, earned a master of arts degree in education – special education from the University of Louisville and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education/learning disabilities from Indiana University.

“It is with extreme confidence that I appoint Kelly Branaman as the new Secretary for Catholic Schools and Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington,” Archbishop Gregory said in announcing the appointment. “May God bless her as she assumes this important role for our Catholic school students.” 

A native of Indiana who grew up on a dairy farm, Branaman converted to the Catholic faith as a young woman. She began her career in Catholic education “when I was 22 years old and was involved in my parish as a newly inducted Catholic and they were looking for a fifth-grade teacher.” That was at St. Ambrose School in Seymour, Indiana.

“To be a newly converted Catholic joining a Catholic school very early in my teaching career strengthened my own faith. It’s the foundation of the faith I have today,” she said in an earlier interview with the Catholic Standard. “I have had the privilege of integrating my life in the Church through the vocation of education.”

Converting to the Catholic faith is an experience she shares with Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory. “I find inspiration in his (Archbishop Gregory’s) own story of conversion,” Branaman said then. “When I met him, it was extraordinarily personal to me that he was also a convert, and we were able to discuss our shared experience of being drawn to the faith at different times in our lives.”

“I am so grateful to be a part of an extraordinary team of leaders in the Catholic Schools Office and in our schools,” Branaman said. “It is my job to support and lead those who provide what parents are seeking for their children in a Catholic education – formation in the tradition of the Catholic faith, academic excellence, diversity, a safe environment and teachers dedicated to meeting the needs of their individual students. I am looking forward to doing that, and I am pleased to serve in this role.”

About 26,000 students from diverse backgrounds attend the 91 archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools located in the Archdiocese of Washington, which include early learning centers, elementary schools and high schools. The archdiocese’s Catholic schools are located in Washington, D.C., and the five surrounding Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s. The Archdiocese of Washington is home to more than 655,000 Catholics in 139 parishes.