Brookhaven, GA (Aug. 17, 2023) – Bishop Rob Wright joined a gathering of students, families, and supporters to officially welcome Maria Croley Madden as St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s new leader.
Madden, a 17-year school educator, is only the 4th Head of School in St. Martin’s 63-year history. She succeeds Dr. Luis A. Ottley, who is now Head of School at the 122-year-old St. Paul Academy in Minnesota.
As Head of School, Madden is responsible for the overall management of St. Martin’s more than 650 students and approximately 150 faculty and staff.
Madden comes to St. Martin’s after three years as head of the middle school at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, S.C. Previously she held administrative, teaching, and coaching positions at Lovett School in Atlanta, for more than 13 years.
Madden, who lived in Atlanta until her time at Heathwood Hall, earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Furman University and her master’s degree and a postgraduate degree in educational leadership from Kennesaw State University.
She began teaching in 2005 at her alma mater, The Walker School.
“I was a teaching assistant in 5th grade and had an incredible lead teacher and mentor. We talked a lot about the field of education and educational leadership, and it was not long after that I started a program to get certified to teach, she said during an interview with Connecting News.
”My undergraduate degree is actually in Spanish and before I started teaching, I worked for the Girl Scouts and had a super rewarding experience working with Hispanic families. I had been a Girl Scout my whole life and that experience working with youth was kind of what led me to pursue education because I enjoyed that so much.”
Madden said St. Martin’s academic program, combined with social, spiritual, and extracurricular activities provides students with a unique “sense of place” that supports learning, leadership, and faith-based character development.
“One of the unique things about St. Martin’s is our tagline — wholehearted education,” she said. “I’ve been known to talk a lot about educating the whole child; body, mind, spirit, and soul. Overall, we want students to be good humans, good stewards who talk about servant leadership.”
Madden said she was drawn to St. Martin’s because it provides an environment where kids “are known, loved, and cheered on.”
“They can grow and develop the values of learning how to be a friend along with learning how to do math, how to write an essay, how to speak a language, and how things work in other parts of the world. I love how we try to accomplish all of those good things,” she said.
Students of all faiths are part of the Episcopal school, and are encouraged to explore their spiritual growth, she said.
“I participated earlier this week in a webinar sponsored by the National Association of Episcopal Schools where a statistic was quoted that around 15 percent of NAES families are Episcopalians. Obviously, that’s not a super high number but I think one of the beauties of the Episcopal tradition is valuing and honoring the dignity of all. So, we welcome all to our school regardless of race or faith tradition out of respect for that being what makes the world so beautiful – that we all bring something different and unique, and we can all be better by learning from each other and celebrating how we’re alike as well as our differences.”
St. Martin’s school, founded in 1959, is intentionally structured as a preschool through 8th grade.
Madden said that educational research shows that grade range is optimal for a high-quality middle school education.
She said St. Martin’s supports intellectual maturation and social-emotional growth and that the school’s nurturing environment gives students solid learning skills and a strong knowledge base for entering high school.
“One of my favorite things about the school’s kindergarten through eight model is that we really get to embrace the beauty of growing up and focusing on that younger child to adolescence to prepare our students to go out into the world of high school,” Madden said.
“Our students are extremely well prepared academically for whatever route they take. They develop that really strong sense of self and get to take that to a variety of different schools. By the time that they’re in 8th grade they have a sense of that when they move into high school.”
Reflecting on her welcome, Madden said having Bishop Wright present for the Celebration of New Ministry service with the whole school community was “a special and almost surreal experience.”
“I teared up when we sang ‘This is the day the Lord has made’ because I have such fond memories of singing it during mass when I was a Catholic school student,” she said. “I had an overwhelming sense of joy and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to serve in this capacity at this incredible school.”