Steve Belen Appointed Principal of Cristo Rey

Experienced Urban Educator Named Principal
Posted on 06/07/2021
Steve Belen

After an extensive search, Cristo Rey Kansas City has appointed Steve Belen as principal effective July 2021. Belen succeeds Michael Padow, who was part of the founding team of educators who brought the Cristo Rey model to Kansas City in 2006.

“Steve is passionate about urban education,” said Cristo Rey President John O’Connor. “He has deep roots in the Kansas City community and has dedicated 31 years of his career to delivering excellence in the classroom. Steve is a natural leader, a man of great faith and experienced in developing and implementing educational programs,” he said.

Belen’s early schooling was at Our Lady of the Americas Catholic School, a consolidated school that served the Westside and downtown Kansas City. At the time he matriculated to high school, his parents and the community suffered the closure of Bishop Lillis High School and West and Westport High Schools. As their desire for Steve to attend a Catholic high school was so great, his parents enrolled him at Bishop Hogan High School.  At Hogan, he first encountered Sister Vickie Perkins, who later became the founding president of Cristo Rey.

“I understand the challenges that our students face in getting to school,” said Belen. “When I was a student at Bishop Hogan, I was up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first of three metro busses.  My commute was one hour and forty minutes each way, and I didn’t arrive home until almost 6 p.m.”

As a frontline teacher in the Kansas City Public Schools, Steve’s first 15 years in the classroom inspired the very sensibilities that he later used as Instructional Coach at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. An emerging leader, he trained and mentored new teachers, coordinated data analysis, and modeled “Best Teaching” practices across the district.

Armed with these successes, Steve moved into administration at Paseo Academy and, later, at East and Northeast High Schools. He has designed staff development, created professional development plans for teachers, and authored the Turn Around Plan for state monitoring of educational improvement at Northeast High School. Belen joined Cristo Rey’s faculty in 2019 and distinguished himself as a rigorous teacher.

Steve’s professional credentials include a Bachelor of Arts in Education, a Masters of Arts in Educational Administration, Educational Specialist in School Administration and state certifications as principal in elementary and secondary education. Steve proudly proclaims that he was the first in his family to attend college.

“I’m thrilled at the opportunity to continue the journey to strive toward academic excellence at Cristo Rey Kansas City,” reflected Belen. “Our goal is to meet each student where he or she is at and provide the supports for growth, particularly when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter,” he said.


About Cristo Rey Kansas City
Cristo Rey Kansas City is a private, Catholic, college and career preparatory high school sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. As one of the 37 schools in the Cristo Rey Network, the school serves culturally diverse students with economic need. An innovative Corporate Work Study Program enables students to expand horizons while earning approximately half of the cost of education. With its first graduating class in 2010 and in each year thereafter, 100% of the school’s graduates have been accepted to college.

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