Tag: manhattan

Catholic School Principals Identified, Recruited, and Formed by Steven Virgadamo are now Eager To Accept Challenge

“Not on my watch.”
Test scores and enrollment will not decline, nor will the Catholic identity be curtailed in Catholic schools across the archdiocese, assure the 41 new elementary school principals as they embark on building up the Church through the schools and pupils entrusted to their care.
The majority of the new principals are replacing those who opted for an early retirement package offered by the archdiocese this year.
Last week, Catholic New York (CNY) met with four of the 41 new hires at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
They are, in Manhattan, Nicholas Green, 32, Incarnation; Tarik Hyman, 38, St. Elizabeth’s, and Caroline Sliney, 28, Blessed Sacrament; and, on Staten Island, Tara Hynes, 46, Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Protecting children is paramount to being a credible principal in 2015, according to Mrs. Hynes. She had served since 2004 as chairperson of the English department and teacher at Msgr. Farrell High School on Staten Island.
“One thing that happens way too often is that children grow up too fast. What makes Catholic school different is that we are educating the whole child—intellectually, spiritually…This world could be a scary place for some of our children—not only for what is out there on social media, but also the fact that many of our parents work and children are home alone. They have added responsibilities and, in a world that could entice them on to the dangerous side, it’s important for us to protect that.”
Mrs. Hynes recalled with great affection and admiration how the Catholic schools of her childhood were there for her, particularly after the deaths of her parents—her father passed away when she was in the third grade, her mother when she was a junior in high school. “There was community and that community saw us through, but also continued. I still am in contact with people who were my parents’ friends, and I address them as ‘Mr. and Mrs.’… I don’t think I would have had that in any other place.”
Principals are called to be “servant leaders,” Hyman said. At the same time, “you’re always a teacher.” Prior to this post, he was the middle school dean and taught seventh grade at St. Ann School in Manhattan. Hyman said he is an advocate of school mentorships.
Having been told by students, “‘You’re like a father to me,’” has meant so much to him throughout his teaching career as he was raised by a single mother and a grandmother. Just as he discovered many male educators throughout his childhood years in Catholic school were effective father figures, to the students of today, “I feel like I’m their actual family member.’”
School should feel like family, followed Ms. Sliney. “You’re at home when you’re at school,” she said. Before becoming principal there, she had served as assistant principal at Blessed Sacrament since 2013.
Ms. Sliney gives high marks to the parish’s “phenomenal” administrator, Father John P. Duffell, for his dedication to the parish school. Observing the power that can come from a vibrant parish and school community, and the difference that can make in early childhood education is remarkable, she said, as is “watching the way that Christ can come alive in a young family.” As a school with a large and thriving early childhood program, she said, “I’m very proud to see the way our families are being evangelized through that faith experience.”
In regard to Catholic identity, human formation “has to be our mission,” Ms. Sliney said. “Faith is ‘caught, not taught,’” she added.
Green had just moved to New York from Tennessee 10 days earlier, where he served as principal of Memphis Catholic Middle and High School since 2012. “I had a great experience, but was ready for a new challenge,” he said. “New York seemed like a place where some really great things were happening.”
The stakes are higher for Catholic schools, Green said. “We’re part of the formation and the preparation for something beyond high school, college, life. We’re trying to help form these children to grow closer to God and to return to God. We’re trying to not just make scholars out of them, but saints.”
 Steven Virgadamo, the archdiocese’s associate superintendent for leadership is grateful that the prep work has been done to adequately prepare for the inevitable generational shift in leadership that has become a reality this year. Nearly seven years ago, with the help of benefactors, the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy was established. Virgadamo, the executive director, describes the academy as the equivalent of a naval war college for school leaders.
Fifty years ago, a sense of mission and identity in Catholic schools was taken for granted because the teachers came from the same religious community, Virgadamo noted. Thirty years ago, as the number of religious in the schools diminished, a new generation of lay school leaders emerged who were mentored and formed by members of the religious community who staffed the school. Today, programs such as the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy are needed, he said, to prepare school leaders to create the same kind of unified school culture that ultimately becomes the charism of the school.
More than 200 individuals from across the country applied to be a Catholic school principal in the archdiocese for this year, Virgadamo noted. Many cited the opportunity to be part of the team history will remember as those who rewrote the script of Catholic schools from a declining system to one which is growing and flourishing, he added.
Dr. Timothy McNiff, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, said his gratitude to the retiring teachers for their years of service to their schools and students is “beyond a mere ‘thank you.’”
At a retreat held this month for the 41 new principals, he saw firsthand their enthusiasm, authenticity and eagerness to impart the Catholic faith in their schools this fall. “I know we’re passing the torch to the right people,” Dr. McNiff said.
It was at that retreat the principals themselves resoundingly devised their newly adopted mantra, “not on my watch.”
There, Dr. McNiff underscored to them “leadership is everything.”
“These schools need to see an adult who goes into that building every day and is wearing their faith on their sleeve,” showing clearly “what it means to be a good, Catholic citizen.”
“I want them to be comfortable in being able to fulfill that expectation, and I want them to be mindful, on a daily basis, that is an expectation,” Dr. McNiff said. “That’s the roadmap I’m asking them to follow.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Vatican Taps New York Native

steve-virgadamoSteven J. Virgadamo, Associate Superintendent for Leadership for the Archdiocese of New York has been invited by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to participate in its World Congress on Catholic Education. The invitation only Congress will be held in Rome November 18-21, and aims to formulate and refresh core education principles, guidelines for Catholic Schools and Universities.

Virgadamo said: “The aim of the Congress echoes my lifetime of service focused on enriching the effectiveness of Catholic education. The future of Catholic schools is dependent on identifying, recruiting and forming Leaders for each of our schools. During my 30+ year career I have counseled Church and school leaders on the strategies needed to ensure that Catholic schools not just survived but flourished and I am excited to contribute to the success of the World Congress on Catholic Education.”

Virgadamo will bring  insight to the World Congress as he  has worked directly with thousands of Catholic schools in more than 100 dioceses in the United States. In 2012, the Alliance for Catholic Education Program at the University of Notre Dame tapped him to consult with Bishops and Catholic School Superintendents throughout the United States to initiate overall school improvement plans. In 2014, he was invited to return to his New York City roots and contribute to the architecture re-engineering of the Catholic School System in the Archdiocese of New York.
When asked about his participation at the Congress, Virgadamo said:

“People – church leaders, educators and Catholic parents are looking for a new paradigm and a means to revitalize our Catholic schools. I’m hopeful that the congress will contribute to helping to redefine the new paradigm”


About the  World Congress on Catholic Education

Themed – “Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion,” the Vatican Congress aims to re-energize the Church’s commitment to education by focusing on”

1. Understanding and analyzing the challenges of today’s rapidly changing and fractured society.

2. Bringing the light of Christ and the Catholic intellectual tradition to bear on these challenges, educating students in the principles that underlie a daily lived appreciation for the eternal dignity and inestimable worth of each human person, mercy, mutual respect and the unhampered pursuit to know and embrace the fullness of truth.