“My days here have truly been a gift” – Fr. George Winzenburg Announces His Departure from Red Cloud in 2019





For the last 14 years—six as a board member and nine as president—Fr. George Winzenburg, S.J. has served Red Cloud with energy, compassion, and grace, working tirelessly to create new opportunities for our students and families, artists, parishioners, and many more. This week he announced that the coming year will be his last at Red Cloud. He expects to receive his next assignment as a Jesuit from the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus—and will be transitioning out of his role as Red Cloud’s president by the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

“I know the entire Red Cloud community is so grateful to have had Fr. George’s strong leadership and vision for all these years,” said Norma Tibbitts, the chair of Red Cloud’s Board of Directors. “Under his guidance, we have been able to launch innovative educational programs, to create extraordinary opportunities for our students, artists, and parishioners, and to form strong partnerships with supporters across the country who are committed to Red Cloud’s future success. As he prepares to accept his next mission, we will all miss his warmth, compassion, and deep commitment to our mission.”





Fr. George will continue to serve as president during the 2018-19 academic year, leaving behind a legacy of growth and success. He led the creation and implementation of Red Cloud’s first comprehensive strategic plan, which has advanced Red Cloud’s work in crucial ways. Under his leadership, Red Cloud introduced innovative educational programs that uphold Jesuit and Lakota values and culture, and expanded the groundbreaking Lakota Language Project and unique arts education opportunities. These efforts have led to unprecedented levels of student success, inside the classroom and out. Today, Red Cloud’s graduation rate is close to 94%, compared to an average of just 70% for Native students nationwide.

Fr. George’s commitment to recruiting and retaining talented employees helped Red Cloud’s educators and students to achieve more.

“During his time at Red Cloud, Fr. George made it a priority to invest in our staff by offering in-depth professional development, improved compensation and benefits like housing. And he focused specifically on elevating Lakota staff, including Red Cloud graduates, into leadership positions across campus,” said Robert Brave Heart Sr., Red Cloud’s executive vice president. “As a result of those efforts, today approximately 25% of Red Cloud’s employees are also alumni, and more than 45 Red Cloud graduates now serve as teachers and administrators and coaches and counselors here on campus—a number that grows every year. They are completing the circle by supporting the next generation of Lakota leaders.”

In his travels, Fr. George focused on bringing Red Cloud’s extraordinary story to light. He has formed strong partnerships with individuals and organizations—including prominent foundations and academic institutions—that are helping Red Cloud to strengthen and expand its programming. For example, Red Cloud’s partnership with Bridgewater State University (BSU) has benefited both student and teachers in critical ways: BSU professors travel to Pine Ridge several times a year to offer professional development for Red Cloud teachers, and each summer a group of Red Cloud students travels to BSU to take part in a two-week enrichment program.

Whether on campus or off, during his years at Red Cloud, Fr. George has devoted his time and energy to advancing the very heart of Red Cloud’s mission—providing meaningful, life-changing programs on the Pine Ridge Reservation. From celebrating the impact of the annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show to creating new opportunities for Lakota leaders to guide Red Cloud’s pastoral work across the reservation, he has been involved in every facet of the organization.





And while the work has been consuming, Fr. George shares that—for him—it has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Each and every one of my days here at Red Cloud has truly been a gift. Walking with all of you—our administrators, teachers, staff, students and families, artists, partners, donors, and so many more—we’ve been able to create truly unique opportunities here on the reservation, where they are so urgently needed. Indeed, I believe what we have done together is not only making a difference today: the holistic and innovative programming Red Cloud provides will continue to bring about positive change on the Pine Ridge Reservation for many generations to come,” said Fr. George, reflecting on the transition ahead. “I have been humbled and blessed by the opportunity to serve this organization and this community. And no matter where I go, I will continue to stay involved and support Red Cloud’s work in the future.”

In preparation for Fr. George’s departure, Red Cloud’s Board of Directors has been developing a comprehensive succession plan. In the coming weeks, the Board will launch a national search for a strong, dynamic leader who understands and values Red Cloud’s unique identity as a Lakota, Catholic, and Jesuit institution. Specifically, they will be seeking candidates with extensive experience in the areas of education and philanthropy who have led organizations like ours with skill, integrity, and compassion.

“Red Cloud has some extremely exciting work ahead, in continuing to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, expanding scholarship opportunities for students to attend Red Cloud, enhancing educational programming around language and culture, and improving our housing and classroom facilities,” said Brave Heart. “By leading these efforts, our next president will have a chance to set Red Cloud’s course forward, and to create meaningful opportunities for our students, staff, artists, parishioners, and many more.”

According to Tibbitts, the position of Red Cloud’s president will be open to both Jesuit and lay candidates: today more than half of Jesuit high schools are led by lay leadership. But it will remain a Jesuit institution, with the full backing of the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus.

“Red Cloud Indian School is one of our Province’s most important priorities, deeply rooted in our history and partnership with our Lakota friends, and reflective of our highest ideals as Jesuits,” said V. Rev. Brian G. Paulson, SJ, Provincial of the United States Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus. “I join you in expressing my gratitude for Fr. George as he prepares for a new Jesuit assignment in summer of 2019. I want to assure all who treasure Red Cloud Indian School as I do that I will work in the coming months with the leadership of the board of trustees in order to mission---whether Jesuit or lay--an incredible leader to lead The institution forward. The new president will no doubt be eager to work aside the many dedicated lay employees, religious sisters and our large community of eleven Jesuits to continue the work of Red Cloud Indian School.”

NOTE: In the coming weeks, Red Cloud’s Board of Directors will release a full job description for the president’s role. In the interim, interested candidates looking for more information should feel free to contact Steve Wilcox, a member of Red Cloud’s Board of Directors, at presidentsearch@redcloudschool.org.






Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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