New principal announces preliminary plans
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Tom Durkin will officially assume his role as Principal and Chief Academic Officer on June 12. His selection for the position was announced on Jan. 4 after he went through a three-step interview process.
Durkin’s responsibilities will include reviewing academic curriculum, introducing new programs, evaluating teachers, and providing professional development. He will also be involved in some disciplinary procedures, although he plans to “initially defer to the Deans of Students in matters of discipline, so I can see how we do things.”
Durkin hopes to interact with students beyond his capacity as principal. He wants to be able to teach an English class and help with the Speech and Debate team, two roles he currently plays at St. Vincent Pallotti High School as Assistant Principal.
“I’d like to help set an example of teaching, if I could. I know that may not be possible, [but] I do think it is important for administrators to stay in the classroom, so they know what it’s like to be in the classroom,” Durkin said.
In addition, Durkin plans to have an active relationship with student government affairs. He currently meets with the leaders of the Student Government Association, or SGA, at Pallotti once a month to discuss student issues, which is something he plans to continue doing at JC as well. This idea will not be foreign to JC students, as the current SGA meets every eight-day cycle to discuss student issues with the administration.
Beyond plans to interact with students, Durkin hopes to introduce his own grading policy. This policy requires that all graded assignments are returned to students and uploaded to Veracross within 72 hours of the assignment’s due date. “All educational studies show students need immediate feedback on work and returning assignments after 72 [hours] provides that. Anything after 72 [hours] loses the gratification of returning it as students move on and learn new things,” he said.
Some students at Pallotti find that this policy is a beneficial one. “The policy is very helpful, especially if you’re stressed or don’t know how you did on a test and are worried about it. Having that information is very helpful to have right away,” Pallotti senior Annie Smee said.
Durkin’s priorities also include learning more about the way JC operates. He especially wants to learn the emergency lockdown procedures because “there’s nothing more important than student safety.”
He also wants to learn the names of all faculty members and students and has already taken the initiative to do so. “I borrowed a yearbook so I can try to know all the teachers’ and students’ names when school starts,” Durkin said.
In regards to the academic aspects of his position, Durkin plans to work on professional development and curriculum quality. “I’m going to get all my teachers a book called ‘Teaching in the Digital Age’ because education is changing, and we need to know how to keep up with it,” he said.
While Durkin is looking forward to meeting more students at JC and becoming a part of the community, his students at Pallotti are upset that he’s leaving. “The whole community is so sad. He’s such a big part of Pallotti, and everyone is going to miss him,” Smee said.
Grace Mottley is the Assignment Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.