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I am so excited about being here and having the opportunity to serve you all as principal of the school.

After a long and challenging interview process that involved many wonderful people committed to St. Mary’s, Father called to offer me this opportunity. I think he was a bit surprised when I told him it would take a few days for me to decide. As a social scientist trained in research, I was in the habit of collecting data, analyzing that data, and then drawing conclusions and making decisions. I told Father that I would need to talk to some members of the parish, attend weekend liturgy and chat with students, parents and members of the parish before I could make a decision.

Much to my surprise, a few hours later I received a cell phone call direct from the parish golf event. I was impressed. After a week’s worth of data collection, here’s what I found.

  • St. Mary’s is a faith filled community, devoted to the message of the gospel.
  • It is a parish dedicated to passing on the Catholic tradition to its youth, willing to sacrifice and support a school so that its students can have the very  best opportunities in life.
  • It is a loving, caring and nurturing parish that will not compromise on the quality of programs. You expect excellence, and are not willing to accept anything less.
  • A faith filled people, supporting children, and demanding excellence: How could I say no?

So, here I am, your new principal.

For the past few months, I have undertaken a project at home that I think will illustrate how I will work as your principal. A few years ago, my mother-in-law passed along a family heirloom, a wonderful gift of a grandfather clock. After unpacking and setting up the clock, it began running just as it has for so many years.

A couple of months ago, I decided to take a look inside, just to see how things worked. It was a little dusty in there, so I started brushing the dust away and cleaning up a bit. A few hours later, my wife innocently asked, “Honey, have you noticed that the clock sometimes doesn’t chime when it is supposed too?” Oh oh! Was I in trouble.

The problem statement was very simple – fix the clock and avoid the wrath of an entire side of the family. I began by reading about clock repair. You have no idea how complex clock mechanism’s can be! Gears and cams and levels and weights all moving in a precise way, any one of which could spell disaster.

Undaunted, I did what every one of you would do. I took the clock apart, removed the face, and reassembled the clock so that I could watch it work. For days, I followed gear trains and watched levels go up and down, and had to check every fifteen minutes to see if I could catch it not chiming. I can tell you it didn’t chime when I was on the phone, at three in the morning and when I was eating, but it always worked correctly when I was watching!

Anyway, what I found was that there was some corrosion on some of the parts. I cleaned each piece carefully. There was some dust in the mechanism (hmmm, I wonder how that got there?). There were some parts that needed a little oil. Like many things, there were a lot of little problems, all contributing to the problem, but none causing the problem. I wasn’t successful the first time, nor the second, but after a lot of attempts, I am happy to say that the face is back on, and the clock chimes every time.

So it is with the school. I will study how it works, clean up and polish some of the pieces, and having it run “like a clock.” The school is the family heirloom of the parish, lovingly shared, and deserving of our unfaltering attention.

I have much to learn about our school, and I would hope the parish shares its family stories with me. I want to know your expectations, your wishes, and your concerns. I want to build a school where the entire parish is welcome to come and learn, and a school where students are offered premier academic preparation as they learn about Catholic values and tradition.

Anxious to get started, I have scheduled meetings for parents and others that are interested in what the future holds for the school next week. The schedule is on the insert in the bulletin. I realize that with this short notice, not everyone will be able to attend. But there will be plenty of opportunity. I love talking to others about my passion for education and Catholicism, and encourage you all to stop by and chat.

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to serve St. Mary’s.

— Dr. Thomas D. Dertinger