Founding faculty member now principal

Michael Padow

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Thirteen years ago, Cristo Rey Kansas City came into being. Also 13 years ago, newly appointed principal Michael Padow began his career at Cristo Rey as a Social Studies teacher.

Padow grew up in Alexandria, VA, and attended public schools through his primary years. Then, in sixth grade, his parents transferred him to St. Mary’s Catholic School, now the Basilica of St. Mary School. “It was a life changer,” he recalled, “an academic and spiritual awakening.” When he graduated three years later, he felt prepped not just for high school, but also for college.

His family moved to Kansas City when he was in high school and he graduated from Rockhurst.

Following a short stint at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he transferred to Rockhurst University to major in political science and history. “Rockhurst was where I got my first taste for education,” he said, and from Rockhurst Padow received his Master’s in Education.

His first job was teaching at St. Ann’s School in Independence, which felt good as he had family in the area and had done some high school service hours there. However, he was soon looking elsewhere and became very interested in a new high school, Cristo Rey Kansas City, soon to open its doors.

When its doors opened in 2005, the high school, the 11th in the Cristo Rey network nationwide (there are now 35 schools in the network), Padow was on its faculty.

The next 13 years were a journey, he said, recruiting students, renovating the old Redemptorist high school building on Linwood Blvd., that most recently had served as Our Lady of Angels grade school and, especially, following the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth’s lead in asking people to take a chance on something untried in Kansas City — students working 5 days a month at partner businesses to help pay for their education and learn job skills — “we had to build trust and we have.”
Yes, Cristo Rey boasts an innovative work-study program — “The school that works” — but it’s still a college-preparatory academic institution, Padow said.

The first years were challenging he recalled, “We were trail-blazing.” Three presidents have led the school during its 13 years: Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Vickie Perkins — “who moved us from start-up to sustainability;” Dr. Kathleen Hanlon — a “growth period with physical transformations to the building” and, since 2017, John O’Connor.

“We’re 13, teenagers now,” After completing the Education Administration program at K.U. in 2010-11, Padow, who, along with teaching Social Studies, became assistant principal in 2012, said. “We have different expectations for the future. Under O’Connor, we are firming up our foundation to last for years to come.”

Academically, new Advanced Placement classes and data-driven instruction are now underway. Faculty is working on improving the classroom environments, promoting rigorous instruction; next year the high school will offer several high school/college credit courses through Rockhurst University. “Cristo Rey will be a Kansas City leader in academics,” Padow said.

Padow, his wife and 4-year old son, live in Overland Park, Kan. It’s a bit of a commute, but Padow is full of ideas for Cristo Rey now, and in the future, so it’s a happy commute to work.


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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph