President’s Message

June 1, 2017

Dear St. Vincent de Paul High School Community,

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met so many St. Vincent de Paul High School families last night at the President’s Reception. Thank you to those who were able to attend. I realize that many were not able to be there due to short notice and other commitments.  Therefore, this communication ensures that all returning and incoming parents receive the information that was presented at the meeting.

As I have previously mentioned, I am honored to serve as the first President of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Schools. It is a very exciting time at the high school, as we approach our centennial year. The upcoming school year will not only celebrate all of the amazing accomplishments of the last century, but will also represent a year of change, to prepare us for the next 100 amazing years of Catholic secondary education in Petaluma.

Some of the immediate changes that have already been announced are the hiring of a new president, the retirement of Fr. Gary Lombardi this August, the changing role of the Board of Regents–from advisory to a role of limited jurisdiction– as well as Principal Dr. John Walker and Vice Principal Mr. Art Walker discerning a move to new opportunities in education. This amount of change for any organization is justifiably accompanied by feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. I would like to assure you that the arrangements for administrative staff in the 2017-18 school year are thorough and have been vetted by experienced and dedicated educators and leaders from within this community.

Research indicates that the health of the interpersonal working relationship between the president and the principal in Catholic secondary schools is critical to this model’s success.  Due to the aforementioned changes and the reality that the month of June is already upon us, the urgency to select a principal over the summer would feel rushed and forced.  Moreover, extending the application period in order to find the right candidate will enable me to get to know this school community in a more personal way.  It will also provide a longer “runway” for the sudden changes in leadership and staffing to settle in rather than abruptly adding an additional leadership role to the organization.  Additionally, the summer months are when students and families, as well as teachers and staff, are on vacation and are not available to participate in the principal search by offering their voice in this process.

Therefore, in collaboration with a group of four talented and experienced Catholic educators,  we have put together a plan called the 2017-18 Leadership Team. With over 70 years of combined experience at this school, Mr. Michael O’Toole, Mrs. Anne Trott, Mrs. Claudia Thompson and Ms. Kathy Atkinson have enthusiastically and graciously agreed to assume the duties and responsibilities of a principal and vice-principal for the 2017-18 school year. Their areas of responsibility are outlined below:

  • Ms. Kathy Atkinson – Parent Liaison and Mediation
  • Mr O’Toole – Student Life and Campus Security
  • Mrs. Claudia Thompson – Scheduling, Student Support, and Discipline.
  • Mrs. Trott – Faculty and Curriculum Development

I am certain that with the Leadership Team’s combined talents and selfless dedication to St. Vincent de Paul High School, this will be an extremely successful school year.  The purpose of this principal search process is to ensure that the very best principal for this school is identified and named (please see here 2017-18 Principal Search Timeline). However, if a strong candidate should emerge sooner than the timeline indicates, we are prepared to adjust the plan as needed.

Thank you again for your patience, as I continue to get to know you, the students, and the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School community. Though we are in a “season of change”, I am confident that at the other end of change is a tremendous opportunity for this school.  In collaboration with the leadership of the Pastor, the new Board of Regents, the Superintendent, and the faculty and staff, the 2017-18 Leadership Team is a shining example of an organization harnessing and sharing its most precious talent. If there are ever any questions or concerns, please know that I am always available by phone or email.  I look forward to our partnership in the education of your children in the months and years to come.  God bless and have a wonderful summer.

In the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul,

Tom Coughlan
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Schools
Petaluma, California