Beloved St. Philomena educator honored as Distinguished Elementary School Principal of Year


PORTSMOUTH — On Friday, April 27, at St. Philomena School, excited schoolchildren held banners revealing the word “congratulations,” in a packed auditorium hosting a surprise celebration for a beloved educator.

On behalf of the Diocese of Providence, Brian Cordeiro who has dedicated the past 17 years to Catholic Education, was selected as Distinguished Elementary School Principal of Year. Unaware of the event, Cordeiro smiled with pride and gratitude when his school and diocese presented him with the honor.

Daniel Ferris, superintendent of Catholic Schools, who presented Cordeiro with the award shared that Principal Cordeiro met every criteria without question. He added that not only is he dedicated to education, above all else, he helps the children at St. Philomena’s, their parents and his colleagues come to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

“Mr. Cordeiro is a servant leader,” said Ferris. “He models what he cares most about and that means providing for the children and adults around him. And he’s sacrificial in his giving. He also shows exceptional leadership with curriculum and academic programing, sustaining staff morale and creating a highly positive school climate, building community support, strengthening enrollment, enhancing financial viability and optimizing the learning environment. He holds consistently high standards for the students and he inspires the teachers and others to achieve their best.”

Seeing him with the students is always heartwarming and wonderful, said Karen Witkowski, vice chair of the Board of Trustees for St. Philomena School.

“When he first got here, he took the time to know each of their names and knows something special about each and every one of them,” she said. “He has brought a joyful spirit to our school and I feel blessed to work with him. He is totally dedicated. He has been called to this position and he had the courage and confidence to listen to that call.”

Ray Kelley, past parent and grandparent at St. Philomena School, served on the Board of Trustees for 14 years and was the chair of the committee that hired Cordeiro.

“I remember when I introduced him at a faculty meeting the room was full of smiles,” he said. “He’s done a lot for the school.”

Deeply grateful, Cordeiro thanked Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, all those in the Catholic School Office and his own school community for this honor.

“Any aspect of my leadership or service that is deserving of this recognition is truly the reflection of the dedicated colleagues, committed families and inspiring students that I have the greater distinction to work with and learn from over the years,” he said. “I am humbled.”

In thanking the school community for the award, Cordeiro paid special tribute to the gentle charism of the Companions of Jesus Sisters, who established, own and oversee the operation of St. Philomena School.

“He’s an excellent principal,” said Sister Imelda Toomey, FCJ. “He’s so good with the students. I see him walk around the grounds and he always stops and talks with them. He’s a great choice for this award. There is nobody better.”

Since July 2015, Cordeiro has served as Principal of Saint Philomena School. Prior to his time in Portsmouth, he was principal of Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School for five years. He been a mentor and support to other principals, serves as chair of the Catholic Athletic League and is an active member of the NEASC Commission on Independent Schools. He is also a member of St. Peter’s Parish in Warwick and a graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School.