SAN DIEGO — The diocesan Office for Schools recently welcomed Elijah Bonde and Elizabeth Kramer as the diocese’s new associate superintendents.
Their arrival marked the latest in a series of staff changes that has resulted in an entirely new Schools Office team. Just weeks earlier, Erica Yanez and Aireen Atkinson came onboard as the office’s new administrative assistants.
The four new staffers join Leticia Oseguera, who became the superintendent in July of last year.
“I will always be grateful to (previous Schools Office Director) John Galvan and the rest of the previous Office for Schools team,” said Oseguera. “The culture of collaboration they built over the last few years is alive and present across our diocese.
“Now, I’m blessed to have this amazing new team join me on this journey,” she continued. “They are a very strong, diverse team who are committed to Catholic education. Each one of them brings unique perspectives, knowledge and experience. I’m very excited to see what we’ll be able to accomplish together.”
Bonde, whose first day in the Schools Office was July 5, brings with him 18 years of experience in Catholic education.
He was born in northern Nevada and attended high school in Sacramento. A Native American, he is a registered member of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone. He attended the University of San Diego, graduating in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.
He said that a career in education was “not my plan” while in college. But after graduation, he “quickly fell in love” with teaching while serving as an AmeriCorps intern at Nativity Prep Academy, an independent Catholic middle school and college-access program in San Diego for students from low-income families.
Bonde earned English and Science teaching credentials in 2007 and a master’s in Leadership Studies in 2015, all at USD. He subsequently earned a Catholic School Leadership Certificate from Creighton University in 2021.
With the exception of one year at St. Aloysius School in Harlem, N.Y., from 2007 to 2008, Bonde has served exclusively at Nativity Prep. At the school, he was a science teacher, from 2008 to 2013; the principal, from 2013 to 2022; and the vice president for institutional advancement, beginning in 2022.
Because Nativity Prep is not part of the diocesan school system, its faculty and staff had little interaction with the Office for Schools during Bonde’s years as a teacher there.
“We were very much an island on our own,” he said, explaining that this was something that changed after he became principal.
Bonde had taken note of the professional learning opportunities offered by the Schools Office, as well as the sense of collegiality that it fostered among local Catholic schools, and he felt strongly that Nativity Prep “should be a part of that.” He began attending diocesan principals’ meetings and joined the diocese’s curriculum leadership team.
Bonde, who is the husband of St. Katharine Drexel Academy Principal Kelly Bonde, reflected on what inspired him to apply for the associate superintendent position. His 17 years at Nativity Prep contributed to his own professional development, he said, and his new position provides him with the opportunity to pay it forward.
“It’s kind of shifting from personally growing to sharing all the blessings that I’ve had,” said Bonde, whose areas of focus as associate superintendent will include working with principals on leadership development and school accreditation.
Kramer began her work in the Schools Office on July 3, following four years at Notre Dame Academy. For the past two years, she was assistant head of schools, a position equivalent to principal.
Born in Texas and raised in Bakersfield and in Singapore, Kramer earned a bachelor’s in International Relations and Sociology at the University of San Diego in 2016.
After graduation, she enrolled in Loyola Marymount University’s PLACE Corps program, an acronym for Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education. Participants earn a master’s degree and teaching credential while teaching full-time at under-resourced L.A. Catholic schools.
“I was thrown into the classroom … and absolutely fell in love with teaching,” she said of her three-year experience at St. John Chrysostom School in Inglewood, where she taught Social Studies and English to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. She also served in an administrative role there as vice principal of liturgy.
Kramer earned her master’s in Secondary Education in 2018.
From 2019 until her appointment as associate superintendent, Kramer served at Notre Dame Academy in San Diego. Initially, she taught middle-school English Language Arts, Social Studies and Religion classes. She became assistant head of schools in 2021.
Kramer said that Notre Dame Academy is transitioning from a private Catholic school run by the religious sisters of the Institut de L’Union-Chretienne de Saint Chaumond into a parochial school, and it felt like the right time for her to make a transition, too.
She sought a job where she could make an impact, and she found it in the Office for Schools, which oversees 46 elementary schools serving thousands of Catholic families and which works to empower Catholic educators throughout the diocese.
“I wanted to have a role that would allow me to use my God-given gifts and abilities to have a large impact on the San Diego community, and felt like this job really encompassed that,” said Kramer, who explained that she and her colleagues at Notre Dame Academy were well-acquainted with the work of the Schools Office, having participated in the many professional development opportunities that it makes available.
As associate superintendent, Kramer’s area of focus will include professional development, curriculum and Catholic identity.
What is she most looking forward to?
“We have such amazing educators and passionate Catholic leaders in our diocese,” said Kramer. “So, connecting them and empowering them to be continuous, lifelong learners and to help each other, to make sure that we’re forming the best future leaders of our Church and our world, is what makes me the most excited about this role.”
The Schools Office’s former associate superintendents, Matthew Cordes and Dr. Julie Cantillon, left earlier this summer to pursue new opportunities within Catholic education.
Cantillon stepped down on June 2. Since July 1, she has been vice president of academics and advocacy for ADAC, which provides wide-ranging professional development services and support to public school educators.
Cantillon, who had served in the Schools Office since late 2014, described the new job as “a good opportunity to make a bigger impact on more students.”
Cordes’ last day in the Schools Office was June 30. In August, he will begin his new job as director of admissions at Cathedral Catholic High School.
He said his eight years in the Schools Office represent the longest he has ever remained in one position. And the reason for that, he said, is “I’ve loved the team that I’ve worked with.” But he felt “it was time to find the next adventure.”
Reflecting on what was accomplished during their years in the office, both Cantillon and Cordes mentioned the successful effort to foster collaboration among the diocese’s Catholic schools.
Cordes said that, when he arrived in the diocese, the local Catholic school system felt “like the Wild, Wild West, where everyone was kind of working in their own little townships and no one talked in between.”
“We got people talking, and we got people working together,” he said.
For Cordes, the COVID-19 pandemic was “the big test” for local Catholic schools when it came to collaboration — and there’s no doubt that the schools earned high marks.
He said, “It was a joy to see our schools supporting each other, working together, and thriving in ways that other school systems couldn’t.”