The right fit: HCDE Principal Academy grad Katie Bradarich leads iconic Houston ISD Lanier Middle School

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November 7, 2017 by HCDE Communications

Nov. 7, 2017 – Middle school principal Katie Bradarich spent 20 years in corporate management and doesn’t remember laughing a lot along the way. As the new principal of Lanier Middle School—a Houston ISD school steeped in history and rich with diversity as an international baccalaureate school and fine arts magnet school–laughter has become the integral part of her school day.

“This isn’t a job for me; it’s the job for me,” said Bradarich, a 2015 graduate of Harris County Department of Education’s Principal Academy who has found her calling working with students who are growing into adolescence, developmental years she calls “a magical age.”

“Dr. B,” as she is fondly addressed by students, parents, teachers and staff, decided to become a principal after moving to Houston to work in curriculum and instruction with children with neurological differences. She holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in teaching and a Ph.D. in teaching and learning. She was referred to the principal certification program at HCDE from several colleagues.

As she bonded with the members of her small, education cohort at HCDE and her education instructors, she coupled her management skills with her love of teaching to become a “learning leader,” a phrase she uses to describe a principal’s leadership role.
The hybrid principal training program at HCDE is both onsite and online as principal candidates meet once a month on weekends. Meetings are combined with self-paced, online assignments. Guests who are tenured education leaders act as panelists to share rich experiences with candidates. The program holds a 100 percent principal certification exam pass rate.

“Leadership advancement coaches at HCDE work one-on-one with our principal candidates in a structured curriculum,” said Lidia Zatopek, director of the program. “But we also model effective leadership strategies such as team-building.”

Bradarich supports and advises six assistant principals at Lanier along with her teachers and administrative staff. She is also responsible for helping build a strong parent-teacher organization and networks within the community.

“You cannot find a more complex and dynamic job,” she said. “For me, part of being comfortable is challenge,” she said.

The two-time cancer survivor said while she’s not afraid of challenge, self-care is important. She reminds her staff to take time for family and themselves, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Within the HCDE Principal Academy, Bradarich cited collaboration as being central to the learning framework.

“The HCDE team built relationships with us and encouraged us to connect to each other,” she said. “We learned a great deal from each other, as our experiences were richly diverse.”

Bradarich wants to be remembered for her compassion and authenticity as she applies her skills sets as principal and leader at Lanier this year.

“All of my studies, degrees and previous work experience have been preparing me to lead at this school,” she said.

For more information about the Principal Academy through the Educator Certification and Academic Advancement division at HCDE, go to Consider attending the Leadership Matters Series for education leadership topics, including the upcoming “Principal’s Role in Transforming School Culture” on Nov. 11. For more information, call 713-696-1348.

Photo:  HCDE Principal Academy grad Katie Bradarich, who now leads Lanier Middle School in Houston ISD, takes a moment to reflect alongside HCDE Principal Academy Director Lidia Zatopek.

About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE provides special education, therapy services, early education, adult education and after-school programming. Services are funded by government grants, fees and a local property tax rate of $.005195. For every dollar in local property tax collected, HCDE provides $4.40 in services to the 25 Harris County school districts. HCDE also operates four campuses for students with profound special education needs and adjudicated youth who require a low student-teacher ratio and highly structured environment. One-hundred percent of students served on HCDE campuses are at-risk. The organization is governed by an elected board of seven trustees and has 1,060 employees and 33 facilities, including 15 Head Start centers. More info at

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