PROVIDENCE — Back-to-school is a time when students say goodbye to summer and pack their book bags in preparation for new educational journeys.
But students aren’t the only ones making fresh starts, as the Diocese of Providence appointed seven incoming principals to head schools for the 2014-2015 academic year.
“These are phenomenal principals,” Superintendent Daniel J. Ferris said. “The depth of experience is immeasurable. There is a lot of talent and skill, and they are very in tune with the mission of Catholic education.”
The new recruits, along with principals throughout the diocese, were among those gathered at a Mass and commissioning ceremony at La Salle Academy on Aug. 18. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin presided at the service, which he concelebrated along with Msgr. Albert Kenney, Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General of the diocese, and Father Michael Najim, who serves as chaplain of La Salle, as well as director of spiritual formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary.
Bishop Tobin commended the assembly for their hard work and dedication.
“You’re carrying on the work of Christ and proclaiming the Gospel,” he said.
“Thank you so much for upholding and promoting the Catholic identity of our schools.”
The bishop went on to discuss the importance of evangelization, as did Father Najim, who offered the homily. Father Najim noted that principals must always encourage students, as well as co-workers, to remain faithful to God.
“As we begin another academic year, the Lord wants us to focus on the goodness that exists in each of our students and each person we work with,” said Father Najim.
“We need to see that goodness and tap into it. We need to help our students become more deeply aware of the desire for heaven and the desire for God that exists in their hearts. We need to be like the prophets to our students, to teach them about the destructive nature of sin and how it pulls us away from God,” he said.
Yet, Father Najim said, that’s not the whole message. Principals also must remind students that God loves them regardless of where they’ve been and who they are.
“One way to do this is to try to look upon our students with the eyes of Christ, which are always the eyes of compassion and heavenly love,” he said. “We can look upon one another with that same love and compassion, too.”
Following Mass, Ferris again expressed his pleasure with the new principals, and introduced each of them to the assembly.
He started with Dan Hodes, who is replacing J. Robert McDermott, as McDermott retired after 43 years as an educator at Coventry’s Father John V. Doyle School. Two others are succeeding religious sisters, as Janet Maloney is taking over at of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School (OLMC) in Bristol, following Sister Carmela Santarsiero, M.P.F., while Scott W. Fuller is replacing Sister Jeanne Barry, R.S.M., at Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) in East Greenwich.
“I’m excited to get my hands on all of the fun projects that Father John V. Doyle School is going to be working on,” said Hodes, who attended The Prout School, Providence College and St. Michael School in Connecticut. He previously worked at Portsmouth Abbey, as well as St. Henry and Pope John Paul II schools in Tennessee.
Maloney is a graduate of Catholic schools at the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels. She has more than a decade of teaching experience, as well as a background in business, and is transferring to OLMC from Providence’s Highlander Charter School.
“I’m looking forward to being with the children and their families,” said Maloney, noting that she’s “humbled” to replace Sister Carmella, whose retirement marked the end of a 62-year reign of Religious Teachers Filippini. Maloney hails from Barrington, and is a parishioner at St. Luke Parish.
Fuller is also a parishioner at St. Luke. He has nearly 30 years of classroom and administrative experience, and has served in the Cumberland School District since 1990. Beforehand, he taught math and science at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket.
He said that Sister Jeanne has been very helpful to him during the transition.
“I call her every couple of weeks or so,” said Fuller.
Guy D. Alba, the new principal at Saint Margaret School in Rumford, can’t wait to get to know co-workers, as well as students and their families. He is an experienced business and educational leader with more than 22 years of administration and teaching service, and is an adjunct professor and guest lecturer at PC’s School of Professional Studies Masters in Counseling Program.
Teaching at PC, he said, has shown him the benefits of a faith-based education.
“As much as I love public school education, I saw the advantages of educating within using a moral compass to help guide rigorous academics,” said Alba, a parishioner at St. Pius X in Providence.
Like Alba and Maloney, William J. Lippe, Erin Finn’s successor at The Cluny School in Newport, has a background in business. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in business management from Babson College in Massachusetts.
“It comes in handy when you’re trying to balance a budget here at the school,” said Lippe, who also has a master’s in Theological Studies from the Christendom College Graduate School in Washington, D.C. “The Cluny School is going to begin a reaccreditation effort in the upcoming academic year, so we’re positioning the school for long term sustainability and growth.”
Kim Izzi, a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in Hope Valley, is the new principal at St. Rose of Lima School in Warwick. She has been a Catholic school educator her entire professional career, holding positions at the former Cranston Johnston Catholic Regional School, and La Salle Academy in Providence. Self-described as energetic, Izzi is eager to begin a new chapter, as well as meet St. Rose students.
“The kids are really what make the school,” she said.
Maria Rocheleau, a parishioner at St. Denis Parish in Douglas, Mass., agrees. She will lead Father Holland Catholic Regional School in Pascoag.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the children, continuing the excellent academic reputation that they have at Father Holland, and making the community aware of what the school has to offer,” said Rocheleau, who attended Catholic school as a child, is a graduate of St. Mary Bay View Academy and Providence College, and is a former principal of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Academy in Central Falls. This is her 19th year as an educator.
Before the end of Mass, Bishop Tobin praised them for their commitment to faith-filled education, and wished them luck during the school year.
“The ultimate purpose of Catholic education is to expose people to the Gospel of Christ and the salvation he brings,” said Bishop Tobin. “We hope and pray that this new year will be filled with God’s richest and abundant blessings.”