Debra Serafin
Debra Serafin

By Dorothy K. LaMantia, Correspondent

Debra Serafin is looking forward to bringing her 40 years’ experience as a teacher and administrator to Mater Dei Preparatory Academy, Middletown.

The school’s new principal is a graduate of Rutgers University with a bachelor of science degree in K-12 education. She taught health and physical education and coached sports and gymnastics in the middle and secondary schools in Wayne, then in Howell High School.

In 1998, her career took a turn into school administration, which led her to supervisory positions in various schools in Freehold and Colts Neck. In 2005, she became the assistant principal at North Brunswick High School, during which time she entered the doctorate program at Rowan University, Glassboro.

While teaching, Serafin earned a master of business administration from Monmouth University, West Long Branch. That degree allowed her entry into various positions in business and finance industries.  

After her retirement in 2012, she pooled her academic and business experiences to become a grant facilitator and educational trainer, conducting workshops for teachers on professional issues.

Then in 2017, a two-month interim position as acting assistant principal reinvigorated her desire to be in education, eventually leading her to Mater Dei’s search for a new principal.

Upon learning that the school’s teams were the “Seraphs” – so like the name “Serafin” – she thought, “How apropos!  If it’s meant to be, I have found my calling.” 

Indeed, Serafin called her new position a good fit, explaining, “It is a small school with a personalized approach to learning and innovative to meet students’ needs. Mater Dei is differentiating itself. That’s what drew me here.”

She said she is looking forward to this year’s inauguration of Mater Dei’s Academic Institutes program, in which students will explore career possibilities in global leadership, information technology, performing arts, and emergency medical services/ nursing, while developing skills they will need to excel in the workplace.  

“My vision for Mater Dei Prep is to try to fulfill the board’s vision when they instituted the school. We want to move it forward as an exceptional high school, meeting the needs of kids in changing times, while keeping it based on Catholic tradition,” she said.

Serafin said she feels at home in her new mission because it is grounded in faith and action. “With my Catholic background, I’ve done volunteer work in various parishes to which I’ve belonged,” she said, noting that she and her husband, Ed, have two children and are active parishioners at St. Dominic Parish, Brick.

Mater Dei, she said, has a 90-hour community service graduation requirement, an opportunity for students to respond to the Gospel through community service, to participate hands-on in food banks, nursing homes, soup kitchens.” 

Reflecting on the importance of Catholic education, Serafin said, “It helps mold our children in the ways of our faith and provides a model to live by.  They learn the difference between right and wrong and gain empathy for other people.”