While elementary school students are still enjoying their summer vacations, new Catholic school principals began their first days on the job July 1, and they are anxious to move forward with their plans for the new school year that begins in mid-August in most cases.
Two of the new principals are familiar with their schools because they have been on staff as teachers.
Cindy Brogan taught at St. Mary in Mt. Carmel from 1999-2004 and then moved to a public school in Princeton, Ind., where she lives.
However, when the position came open at St. Mary’s, she knew it was not only the right place but also the right time to return to the Catholic school system.
“It’s a dream come true,” Brogan said. “I’m bringing my children with me” to the Catholic school. St. Mary’s is a tradition in Brogan’s family with her mother and other relatives graduates of the school, she said. Brogan said she “missed” the Catholic school “structure and discipline,” and is looking forward to returning to it.
At St. Mary’s and other Catholic schools teachers and principals can talk about God, and that is important to her, Brogan said.
One group of children Brogan wants to focus on is children with special needs. “I definitely want children with special needs to feel included,” she said. Brogan also expects to bring in new trends in curriculum, she said. “I am absolutely excited, and “ready to get this show on the road.”
A second new principal with experience at his school is Dan Nickerson, who will begin his role as principal at Sister Thea Bowman School in East St. Louis.
Nickerson was the middle school math and science teacher and Dean of Students at the school before taking a year off to be a lay missionary with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in Dodoma, Tanzania. He is looking forward to returning to the classroom at Sister Thea Bowman, in part, because “I love the mission aspect of the school,” he said. “The staff are like family and the families of the children there are so supportive; it’s a positive atmosphere.”
Because Nickerson has experience in the public school system, teaching at East St. Louis high school and in Cahokia, he sees “Sister Thea Bowman as an oasis in the community.” Nickerson wants to work on growing the enrollment — about 135 now — since the school has the staff and the facilities. He also wants to “grow” the community involvement” too. “I’m a networking kind of guy,” he said.
His experiences in Tanzania, where he taught math will also influence Nickerson’s approach to being a principal. “I saw students struggling to learn because of their lack of language skills,” he said. “That’s also true here; it’s about expanding vocabulary.”
Anyone who has taught school at any level realizes students don’t all learn or understand material the same way, so it must be presented for a variety of learning styles and skill levels. “I think technology can help us teach with video clips and graphics,” he said.
With a set of iPads, Nickerson hopes to expand their use in the classrooms. “I want to expose them to as many avenues to learn as possible,” he said.
He also wants to make sure students realize that they need to know how to find information because “we’re all lifelong learners.”
Nickerson said he feels “honored” to be chosen as Sister Thea Bowman principal and hopes he can keep the school moving in the right direction as a successful mission school.
A new principal at St. Bruno in Pinckneyville will be ready to open the doors Aug. 15 to new students. Brittany Goldman, a Pinckneyville native, left a post in Damiansville to return home to teach at St. Bruno. While busy, Goldman said she is also excited about her new position.
She is finishing her masters in administration and leadership at McKendree University in Lebanon.
Goldman said she has “a lot of ideas” to explore with teachers, staff and students. “Our students are great,” she said. “I want to keep that loving atmosphere and family environment alive.” Goldman wants to grow the student population to “get more students and families involved” in the school and parish community.
At St. Joseph in Freeburg, John Correll will begin his role as principal this year. Correll will wear dual hats at the school: principal and father of a preschooler. Coming from a public school setting, he wanted to make the move to a Catholic school, he said. “Faith is important in the education of a child,” he said. “You can’t refer to faith in a public school.”
Correll said he is excited about beginning his role as principal in his parish where he is already part of the parish community.
Being involved in the faith formation of youngsters in the school, the teachers and staff is important, he said. He has worked closely with former principal, Tim Queern, who left the area, and is “happy about the direction the school is going.”
For example, the students have access to technology with their science curriculum available online. Each 3rd-8th-grader has access to a chrome book through the school, and Correll said he expects to expand use of the “books” and use Google docs as well. With students working above grade level in some core subjects, Correll looks forward to continuing along that path.
“We have a really great young staff as well as some who are young at heart,” he said, “and “I’m really looking forward to working with them; and they have great ideas.”
These four principals are in place and ready to go. At press time, two other schools are awaiting their principals: St. Mary in Centralia and St. John the Baptist in Smithton.
In other new school news: students, staff and teachers at St. Joseph in Olney will begin the school year in a new building.
Dedication of the new school is set for Sept. 30th.