|June 11, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 10 • Oakland, CA|
New principals named for four diocesan
Sister Kathleen McAvoy, OP
New assignment: Principal, Holy Names High School
Last assignment: Internet education company, Houston
Among the factors that attracted Colleen Curran to the opportunity more than 1,500 miles from her Houston home: the presence and deep involvement of the Sisters of the Holy Names, the school's storied 144-year history and its all-female student body.
"I'm a product of a single-sex Catholic high school," said Curran, who will succeed Sister Sally Slyngstad, SNJM, as principal of the Oakland school.
Curran was graduated from St. Cecilia's School in Houston and the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston, an all-girls high school.
"My cousin is an RSCJ," she said. Sister Anne Wachter, after serving as head of Convent of the Sacred Heart Elementary School in San Francisco for the past 12 years, is heading to Nova Scotia, where she will serve headmistress of Sacred Heart School of Halifax, just as her cousin arrives across the Bay.
In addition to family trips to the Bay Area that have brought the cousins together, they have another connection: Curran is named for Sister Anne's mother, Colleen Curran Wachter.
Curran's father's sisters graduated from the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Omaha.
The connection with the Sacred Heart schools has brought Curran to the Bay Area several times. She's is an active member of alumnae groups and has visited the Sacred Heart campuses in San Francisco and Atherton.
Childhood trips to the Bay Area are pleasant memories for Curran, who remembers seeing the sights — Ghirardelli Square and Alcatraz pop into mind — but her family also showed her the less-visited side of San Francisco.
The opportunity to live and work in the Bay Area is most welcome. "It's been a place I've always loved," she said.
Curran has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Houston. She has taught students in elementary, middle and high schools. Her students have included those in special education, as well those in programs for gifted students.
She spent four years at St. Francis Episcopal Day School in Houston, where she directed the middle school on the 800-student campus with children ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. She has spent the last year working for an online learning company, adapting a digital literacy project.
Curran said she looks forward to her new life at Holy Names, where the charisms of the Holy Names make her feel at home already. "It feels so familiar, so comfortable," she said.
"The physical facility is stunning," she said. "It's a beautiful building, well cared for."
She received a warm welcome from the faculty on a recent visit, where she said she was impressed with the devotion of the teachers. "They talked about their students," she said. "They didn't talk about themselves."
The students were also welcoming. "They were fantastic," she said. "They asked tough questions. It was very courteous and respectful. They asked about cultures and beliefs." They were interested in knowing if she has experience in working with diverse communities.
Turns out, she has taught in Fort Bend, Texas, recently named the most diverse suburb in the nation, she said. Her classroom included students from China, India Nigeria, Kenya and Philippines, among other places.
The Holy Names alumnae community has added its greetings. "What a warm welcome from the alumnae community," she said of her introduction. As an active Catholic all-girls high school graduate herself, she said of the alumnae: "They're my people."
Her plans for Holy Names include to "reinvigorate our profile out there," meeting principals of the K-8 schools, and getting to know principals of the other schools.
She'll be "making sure Holy Names is out there for a choice of an excellent education for girls of all faiths."
New assignment: Principal, St. Clement School, Hayward
Last assignment: Director of admissions, St. Elizabeth High School, Oakland
Ana Hernandez said she is "thrilled to have this opportunity," as she becomes a first-time principal at St. Clement School, where she will succeed Lana Jang-Rocheford.
Hernandez, a native of Mexico, moved to Oakland with her family when she was 9. She was educated in Catholic schools in Mexico, followed by public schools in Oakland. After graduating from Castlemont High School, she enrolled at Occidental College. While earning her teaching credential at Mills College, she worked for the Upward Bound program.
She spent two years as a senior counselor in that college prep program, working with youth to get resources they need to go to college.
She has spent time in counseling, admissions and in the classroom, where she taught Spanish from Level I through AP Spanish, digital photography, and English as a second language.
She spent four years at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, where she was summer school principal, before leaving to work for Leadership Public School, a charter high school in Hayward. She arrived at St. Elizabeth High School in the fall to direct admissions at the Oakland school, which celebrated its 90th birthday last year.
"I always knew I wanted to be in education," Hernandez said. But after a couple of years, she knew her calling stretched beyond the walls of a single classroom. "I was thinking about the possibility to be a school leader and bring in innovative ideas to a school community," she said. "I wanted to impact an entire community."
She graduated with a master's degree in administration from Mills College two years ago. She has begun work on a doctoral degree, and is on leave from the program.
She has visited her new school in Hayward, where she will have the opportunity to make that impact. "They were a very warm and welcoming community," she said.
New assignment: Principal, St. Isidore School
Last assignment: Vice principal, St. Isidore School
Maria Ward, who has been vice principal at St. Isidore School for the past four years, will move to the principal's chair upon the retirement of Jean Schroeder, longtime educator and principal.
"I'm fortunate to have had Jean Schroeder as a mentor for a long time," she said.
Ward has spent 10 years at the Danville school, previously serving as part-time vice principal, fourth-grade teacher and eighth-grade teacher.
"It feels like home," she said.
It's the same feeling she had 10 years ago, when she came to the school at midyear. "The moment I walked in, I felt that sense of home."
She had worked as a substitute teacher in public schools when a midyear opening occurred at St. Isidore.
She had worked in outside chemical sales and in the auto business before her move with her husband to California from her native Louisiana allowed her to follow her passion. "I've always wanted to be a teacher," she said.
She attended Catholic schools in New Orleans from kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating from St. Mary's Dominican High School. A graduate of a state university in her home state, she received her teaching credential, master's degree in curriculum and administrative credential at Dominican University in San Rafael.
The mother of three children — her 8-year-old is a second-grader, her 5-year-old son will start at St. Isidore in the fall, and the 3-year-old will have to wait a bit — said St. Isidore School is the school her children know.
"I was here before I was a parent," Ward said.
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