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Dominican charism inspires school community

First slide

Having now embarked into their second decade, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores is back to school with leadership changes. This fall, the school will shift to a new administrative model of head of school and principal. Dominican Sister Mary Veronica Keller, who has served as principal since 2016, will become the head of school, and Shawn McNulty, who has served as assistant principal of student life since 2008, is the school’s new principal.

The theme for the school year is: "Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better."

“Mr. McNulty is the ideal choice as a talented, trusted, respected leader in the John Paul community,” said Sister Mary Veronica. “He has earned that respect by working for many years in education: as a teacher, assistant principal at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School, and his 11 years here as assistant principal and founding member of Saint John Paul the Great. He has my full trust and support.”

With this new administrative model, Sister Mary Veronica, as head of school, will focus primarily on the long-term strategic planning, while continuing to provide spiritual leadership, promote the school’s mission, Catholic identity and Dominican charism. As principal, McNulty will report to Sister Mary Veronica and will focus on the day-to-day operations and concerns of the school, including academics, student life, athletics and co-curriculars. While their roles are defined, Sister Mary Veronica and McNulty will work together closely for the success of all areas of the school.

“This is a win-win for our whole school community regarding the day-to-day operations of the school, as well as for the long-term stability and viability of the school,” said Sister Mary Veronica.

Two new assistant principals join this fall as well. Greg Haas will serve as assistant principal of academics, and Edward McDonough will serve as assistant principal for student life and discipline. Haas spent 15 years at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington as a teacher and department chair.  McDonough joins John Paul the Great after serving as a military officer in the Marine Corps for 28 years. The community is thrilled to welcome both assistant principals.

The school also welcomes eight new faculty and staff members, including Courtney Hickey, Jacqueline Iwan, Sarah Judge, John Sawyer, Annaliese Slaton, Frances Standley, Sarah Mateo and Bill Wittman. 

As this school community begins a year with changes, Sister Mary Veronica thoughtfully chose the school’s theme for the year. The school’s theme will follow a quote from patron St. John Paul II, "Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better."

“This quote, in which St. John Paul II describes the purpose of Catholic universities, strikingly and accurately describes our curriculum and culture at Saint John Paul the Great,” said Sister Mary Veronica. “We are so blessed to have the mission of forming youth with our four-year comprehensive bioethics program that permeates our rigorous curriculum and develops clarity of thought at the service of the human person.”

In the classroom, Dominican Sister Malia Grace is excited to start another year of Freshman Seminar, a course that she developed and launched last year. This year she plans to incorporate a selection from the book, “Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves” by Jason Evert.

“This delightful biography on our patron is a perfect fit for this class,” said Sister Malia Grace. “I am also very excited to get to know this new freshman class and to shape the course to their particular needs.” 

Last year, Sister Malia Grace and fellow faculty found that the freshmen were more quickly adjusted to the high school environment than in years past, both academically and socially. Faculty saw the impact that the Freshman Seminar course had on the students’ confidence in other classes. The tools that were provided to freshmen in this course enabled success all-around, most markedly, freshman midterm exam grades were greatly improved over previous years. Outside of the classroom, the students were also involved in extracurricular activities more readily. The school is thrilled to provide this support again this year to their current incoming freshman.

The school welcomes all to attend their first home football game this year over homecoming weekend, Oct. 11. This is a special event because this will be the first game played in their new stadium, Kosar-Karlinchak Field. This fall, Golfing with Wolves is scheduled for Sept. 19 and the school’s open house is Nov. 3. 

“We are very blessed to have the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia,” said McNulty, “Their Dominican charism inspires our community to transform the culture through dedicating our work to Christ each day. A John Paul education truly makes a difference in people's lives and our culture.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019