Administration undergoes restructuring
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For the upcoming school year, there will be no vice principals. With this change, the current Vice Principal of Student Affairs and Technology will become the Dean of Student Affairs and Technology. The position of Vice Principal of Academics will be replaced by Dean of Professional Development.
According to President and Interim Principal Richard O’Hara, this change in position has been in discussion since the Strategic Planning Committee in 2010, a process which occurs every five years to plan improvements for the school.
“The discussion got a little more momentum when we were getting a new principal and [discussing] what would be the best roles that could move everything forward,” O’Hara said. The goal is to take the emphasis off of just completing the administrative tasks and to put more emphasis “on the vision and the implementation of the vision,” according to O’Hara.
“I think particularly in Catholic schools, the roles of principals and vice principals can tend to be too administrative, almost management of the various parts of the operation that goes on. After a lot of discussion and research, we wanted to put more emphasis on the academic leadership,” he said.
According to the job description, the Dean of Professional Development will be “charged with providing leadership for the planning, development, and production of curriculum materials, processes, and best teaching practices.” O’Hara believes that implementing this position will result in the enhancement of teaching and the curriculum itself.
“I believe that nothing has more of an effect on the improvement of the student experience than how well we are attracting and developing and retaining the very best teachers. We want to make sure that the culture is one that always seeks to improve,” O’Hara said.
One faculty member believes that focusing on developing teachers’ professionalism could create a consistent teaching style throughout the school. “I think that’s needed actually. I think it’s great to have so much freedom to teach whatever you like, but it can also cause problems,” Margaret Kelly* said.
In June, Tom Durkin, who is currently the Assistant Principal at St. Vincent Pallotti High School, will assume the position of Principal and Chief Academic Officer. With this position, he will take on some of the tasks from the current Vice Principal of Academics, as well as act as the principal. “It seems like they’ve taken two jobs, the vice principal and principal, and they’ve kind of merged it. That seems like it would be too much for one person to do. I think it’s too ambitious,” Bradley Smith* said.
However, according to O’Hara, Durkin is “well aware and is very supportive of the change.”
“A lot of the responsibilities [that] were basically under the vice principal will be distributed. It’s not all going to be going to Mr. Durkin, but that is still in the planning stage,” O’Hara said.
When the Board of Trustees and O’Hara made the decision to implement the position of Dean of Professional Development, faculty members were informed through an email sent out to the entire community regarding speculations about faculty changes.
“We didn’t know about [the restructuring] until everyone knew about that. We knew about the title of the principal, but we didn’t know how the other people would be affected,” Smith said.
According to O’Hara, faculty members were “not directly” involved with the decision process and will be informed closer to June with details regarding an explanation of the positions and the reasoning behind the changes.
Several faculty members have expressed that they were upset by this lack of communication regarding a decision that would affect the school. “They have not told us anything at all. They haven’t communicated anything at all to us,” Kelly said.
Although O’Hara believes that this will positively impact the students and raise JC to another level, some students and faculty members think otherwise.“As far as I can tell, we don’t fully agree with [the changes]. Why can’t we just be a school? … We are a business … but we are in the business of kids, the business of students. Stop trying to be something we’re not, you try too hard,” Smith said.
Students’ reactions to the structural changes were mixed. “It’ll be like people are overwatching us, but no one is actually here to see what’s going on in the students’ lives,” one senior said. “I feel like the students aren’t going to have anyone on their side.”
O’Hara does not understand this apprehension from students. “Everybody is on their side here, all of the teachers, advisors, coaches, counselors, [and] administration. This change, in putting emphasis on a role that is designed to make instruction even better, is only designed to make the experience better for all students and to make us a stronger school,” he said.
Another teacher believes that the structural change was unnecessary.
“I think that the structure that we’ve had for the last 50 years with a principal and two or three vice principals has worked fine,” Barbara Anthony* said.
However, O’Hara feels that the community should look at the changes with an open-mind. “The value to the school and to the students of changes like [these] and certain decisions are often not known until much later in the future … I think time will show that they were right decisions, they were good decisions for John Carroll,” he said.
*Due to the sensitivity of the topic, faculty members and students wished to be anonymously quoted.
Caroline Cooney is the Editor in Chief and Allie Taylor is a Perspectives Editor of The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.