For me, the best part of the academic life is the rhythm of our calendar of beginnings, endings and beginnings again. No part of the year is filled with as much excitement as the start of a new academic year.
Over the next few days we will welcome our new students who enter our high school with much expectation and some natural nervousness as they start a new journey of leaving the “kid stuff” as they become teenagers and start to contemplate their lives as young adults. As we welcome them we also welcome back our sophomores, juniors and seniors, each year with its own expectations, excitements and challenges.
As a parent I have mixed feelings about the new academic year. First, I like the fact that my kids need to start the predictability of the school schedule. They actually have to get up in the morning! I love watching their reactions to new teachers and increased responsibilities with school work and the all-important clubs and sports. I am a bit sad that the freedom of the summer is now over, but there is so much to look forward to as the academic year progresses.
At Saint John’s we have been busy preparing for the new academic year. As you will note in this issue ofThe Viking Voice, we are welcoming many new faculty and staff members to our school community. We are so pleased to have Fr. Mike Kuhn join us for three days each week as our Campus Chaplain. This is the first time in six years that we have had a priest dedicated to the needs of our students. Fr. Mike comes to us from his Order, Youth Apostles, which has a focus on the spiritual needs and growth of young people. Fr. Mike has been the Chaplain at universities and high schools and his experience and pastoral care will be a big asset to all of us. Joining Fr. Mike will be Meghan Sprankle who will work in our Campus Ministry program. Meghan will also serve in youth ministry at St. John’s Parish in Frederick. She brings a great deal of skill and enthusiasm for Catholic campus ministry. Dawn Miller, will be teaching Theology and leading our music ministry programs. While we will always be primarily focused on our Catholic faith, I have asked our campus ministry staff to provide spiritual outreach and programs for our non-Catholic students.
We also welcome our new Assistant Principal, Mr. Daryl Hayes, who will have special responsibility for student life programs and the implementation of our student handbook. Mr. Hayes, an experienced educator comes to us with a great deal of experience in both private and public schools. We are also very pleased that he will serve as our Head Football Coach.
This past July we said goodbye to our long serving Athletic Director, Silas Cheung. Silas accepted a new position at his high school alma mater. We hosted a wonderful celebration to mark Silas’ many contributions to Saint John’s. Before officially hiring a new athletic director I have decided to pause and review all of our athletic programs. I have hired Dan Soller, former Executive Vice President at Mount St. Mary’s University to serve as my consultant to review all programs and their needs. Dan will begin his work for us on September 1st.
I recently promoted Michael Schultz to a new position of Executive Director Advancement, which will include leading admissions, enrollment management, annual fund and communications. As an alum of Saint John’s Michael’s leadership skills and unique perspective will continue to serve us in a greater capacity.
This summer we have dramatically improved our technology infrastructure. We are now wireless in all areas of the campus, including access in our patio area. This year we are providing a personal computer for each student. These computers should help our students with their research, assignments and augmenting in-class instruction. We will also try to tackle the growing issue of cell phone use in school. While I do not want to ban these, I am increasingly concerned by constant use which impedes interpersonal interactions. Cell phones are important for emergencies and after school contacts, but we will insist that they are not used during the day.
We are ready to start our 187th year at Saint John’s. We pray that this will be an exciting year of growth for our students and their teachers. We pray that they remain healthy and fully enjoy this special time in high school. And we pray that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are evident throughout our school every day.
Thomas H. Powell