May 15, 2017

Dear St. Vincent de Paul High School Community,
The 2017-18 school year will mark 100 years of Catholic secondary education at St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, California.  For a century, St. Vincent de Paul High School has partnered with parents to prepare and transition their children into adulthood.  A variety of exciting events have been planned throughout the next school year to celebrate the centennial year of offering high school students in Sonoma and Marin Counties a personalized, loving, and faith-filled learning environment.  St. Vincent de Paul High School is proud to be part of the unique and special Petaluma community!
Before celebrating 100 years at St. Vincent de Paul High School, the end of the 99th year will be a celebration of the leadership of two prominent members of the school community–Father Gary Lombardi and Principal Dr. John Walker.  Father Gary will be retiring from active ministry on August 1.  Father Gary has served as Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church for 23 years.  In his role as Pastor, Father Gary has successfully shepherded the Catholic identity and faith life of the Parish and schools as well as served as mentor and supervisor to Principal Dr. John Walker.  A more formal announcement, including plans for the celebration of Father Gary’s years serving the St. Vincent de Paul community will be forthcoming.  Fr. Gary will remain in full and active duty as Pastor until late summer or early fall.
After 13 years of service to St. Vincent de Paul High School, Dr. Walker has decided that he will be moving on to a new opportunity in the field of education.  During his tenure as Principal, St. Vincent de Paul High School has achieved remarkable success in many areas, including the development of a robust and rigorous academic culture that encourages students to think critically and constructively about how they can graduate to become leaders in their communities.  Additionally, Dr. Walker led a campaign for the construction of Yarborough Field, a state-of-the-art all weather athletic complex, that was constructed to not only benefit the St. Vincent’s students but the entire Petaluma community.  Dr. Walker will conclude his tenure as Principal on June 30.
The timing of the departure of Dr. Walker, in the context of the current dynamic and competitive environment for enrollment and sustainability in Catholic schools nationwide, has led Father Gary and the Board of Regents to evaluate how to best ensure the sustainability of St. Vincent de Paul High School for the next 100 years.  In consultation with Dr. Linda Norman, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Santa Rosa, as well as Bishop Robert Vasa, the Board of Regents will begin anew as a Board of Limited Jurisdiction on June 1, charged with development initiatives and ensuring sound fiscal governance.  In this new leadership structure, the Pastor will continue to be responsible for creating and maintaining a strong Catholic identity.  The announcement of the new Board of Regents will be forthcoming, following a meeting on May 22.
Additionally, like many Catholic secondary schools nationwide, Father Gary Lombardi, the Board of Regents and Dr. Linda Norman have redesigned the structure of the school leadership to include a President and a Principal.  The dual leadership model in Catholic secondary schools divides the multiple administrative roles and responsibilities between two individuals.  In this division of roles, the President provides for leadership in institutional advancement, management of financial resources, strategic planning, and fidelity to mission of the school.  The Principal provides for academic leadership and the daily operation of the school.  In this new leadership structure, the President will work in partnership with the Board of Regents and the Pastor.  One of their first tasks will be to work together in collaboration with the students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni and community members, to develop and execute a Strategic Plan.  The Strategic Plan will set a path for strengthening the Catholic identity, academic and co-curricular programming, as well as to foster the growth of a healthy and sustained future.  A search committee comprised of Father Gary, Dr. Norman, the Board of Regents, as well as selected representatives from the Faculty and Staff of the High School and Elementary School are in the process of interviewing candidates for the inaugural President.  If there are no qualified candidates after the first round of applications, a leadership transition team consisting of current school administrators including Dr. Norman, will continue to meet the management and supervisory needs of the school until a suitable candidate emerges.
In spite of the number of changes that have taken place and will continue to take place over the next few weeks, the Faculty and Staff of St. Vincent de Paul High School remain steadfast in their dedication to continue to serve the students and families of the school.  One hundred years of Catholic secondary education is a remarkable achievement and serves as a testament to the multigenerational commitment to the school’s partnership with parents.  Together, St. Vincent de Paul High School will continue to remain an integral member of the Petaluma community.
Rafael Velez
Chairperson, Board of Regents