Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale to Implement President/Principal Model

PHOENIX (Feb. 25, 2016) — The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, announced today the establishment of a new executive leadership structure at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix and Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale. The two Catholic high schools are implementing a President/Principal model, providing for an external-facing institution builder (President) and an internal-facing champion of academics (Principal).

Bishop Olmsted has appointed Xavier Principal Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, as its President. James M. Gmelich, Principal at Notre Dame Preparatory, has been appointed by Bishop Olmsted to serve as the Scottsdale school’s President.

Sr. Joanie Nuckols, BVM, has been appointed by Bishop Olmsted to be the new Principal of Xavier. The new structure is effective July 1, 2016.

“It is with great joy that we announce this new leadership structure for Xavier College Preparatory and Notre Dame Preparatory,” Bishop Olmsted said. “The President/Principal model represents a strategic enhancement of the schools’ approach to mission advancement, educational excellence, and the faith formation of students as missionary disciples of Jesus.”

The dual leadership structure of President/Principal is an emerging model of administration in Catholic secondary schools in recent years. It offers shared authority and a division of responsibilities between two people, allowing for efforts between the President and Principal to focus on their clearly defined goals to better serve their Catholic high schools, the students and their families, and the communities where they live.

The President’s chief responsibilities include mission advancement, development and fundraising, donor and alumni relations, enrollment management, partnerships with businesses, and public relations.

The Principal’s role includes leadership in developing and implementing academics, curriculum, staff and faculty development, and administration of day-to-day operations at the school.

Both share in the responsibilities of providing spiritual leadership, personnel and institutional management, and creating and maintaining a vibrant Catholic culture.

“This new dual executive leadership model at Xavier and Notre Dame is a reflection of Bishop Olmsted’s commitment to the community,” said MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of the Diocese of Phoenix’s Catholic schools. “This new structure will allow the schools to more effectively focus on mission advancement and development, ultimately ensuring for students a culture of faith, academics and service that forms them to be missionary disciples, good citizens and people who put their faith into action.”

Sr-Joan-Fitzgerald-Xavier-College-PrepSince becoming Principal in 1974, Sr. Joan has led Xavier to become an institution whose reputation as a community of faith has reached excellence in academics, athletics and the arts. Xavier has received many accolades, being named a Blue Ribbon School three times, selected for the Catholic High School Honor Roll twice, winning the 2008 Siemens Award for the best Advanced Placement program in Arizona and received the Blue Cup for the best athletics and activities program in Arizona. Sr. Joan received the Elizabeth Seton Award for Leadership to Diocesan Schools, the Ministry Award from the Diocese of Phoenix, and the National Catholic Education Association’s Secondary Education Award.

Until 2012, Xavier had a small 20-seat chapel, no cafeteria or no athletic fields. In 2008, the school began a $28 million campaign resulting in the purchase of 28 properties south of the campus, as well as the $18 million construction of the Chapel of Our Lady, Founders Hall and Petznick Field. Through the hard work of the Advancement Office and the generosity of many parents and friends, this debt has been reduced to just under $9 million. It is Xavier’s goal to pay off this debt as quickly as possible so that future fundraising efforts can be directed to financial aid for qualified and deserving students.

Principal at Notre Dame Preparatory since 2013, Gmelich currently directs both the internal and external work of all school personnel and departments. Prior to joining the community at Notre Dame Preparatory, Gmelich served as teacher and administrator in three Catholic secondary schools as well as supporting the mission of Catholic schools as an educational consultant for Catholic secondary and pre-secondary schools.

James-Gmelich-NOTRE-DAME-PREP-2He oversees the fiscal management of the school and ensures its stability through direct oversight of the business operations, development, alumni, community relations and enrollment management activities. He also acts as the primary liaison between the school, the Advisory School Board and the Diocese of Phoenix. Since its founding in 2002, Notre Dame Preparatory has garnered state, regional and national awards for its academic, co-curricular and formation programs, including the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Director’s Cup, the highest award bestowed upon a school for overall excellence in scholarship, sportsmanship and achievement within a school’s athletics and activities program. Notre Dame Preparatory has gained particular recognition by securing 41 team state and 36 individual athletic and activity championships, 13 national visual and performing arts awards and has been recognized as a school of special distinction by Catholic Relief Services for its commitment to service and justice.

On December 31, 2014, Notre Dame Preparatory closed its Legacy Continues Campaign after securing $7.3 million to complete phases I and II of a three phase campus expansion plan. The acquisition of 7.46 acres adjacent to the campus launched the expansion, and in September of 2015, with the christening of the school’s new sports complex and the dedication of Bemis Field, phase two was completed. The third phase of the school’s strategic master plan will feature a Center for the Arts and Fieldhouse. This building will add up to 100,000 square feet of new classroom, performing arts and athletic space. The school is currently conducting a feasibility study to determine the scope of the coming project and expects to announce its finding in the late spring.

New Xavier Principal Sr. Joanie joined the Phoenix school in 1974 as a history teacher. She previously served as Department Chair of Social Studies and Theology, and is now the Vice Principal of Academics and Campus Ministry. In addition to her responsibilities as Vice Principal, Sr. Joanie teaches AP European History. She has earned two Masters Degrees, one in Modern European History (1975) from St. Louis University and in Educational Administration (2007) from Grand Canyon University.

The national search for Notre Dame’s next principal will begin immediately. Conducted by the Diocese of Phoenix and the school’s administration, the search seeks to identify and secure a passionate and accomplished Catholic school leader to advance the school’s mission and award winning programs.

Xavier College Preparatory is a Roman Catholic High School for young women, founded in 1943 by St. Francis Parish and staffed by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today the 1,200 students from diverse cultural, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds hail from more than 150 different middle schools from across the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Notre Dame Preparatory has been providing a rigorous Catholic college preparatory education to students in Scottsdale and the surrounding communities. Notre Dame Preparatory, with its 900 students, is located in north Scottsdale, 20 miles from downtown Phoenix.

More than 14,000 students currently attend one of the Diocese of Phoenix’s 28 Catholic elementary schools, six high schools and 28 preschools throughout the Diocese of Phoenix. Students receive a rigorous, faith-filled education that prepares them for the challenges of higher education, a competitive world and for being faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Christ. An estimated 99 percent of students graduate from high school; 97 percent go on to attend college.

Planning is underway to open a new Catholic high school in the far west Valley in fall 2018. Named after St. John Paul II, the high school will be located near Thomas and Litchfield Roads, adjacent to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix was established Dec. 2, 1969, by Pope Paul VI. Led by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, more than 1.1 million Catholics make this diverse, vibrant and faith-filled diocese their home.


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