Phoenix, Scottsdale high schools to implement president/principal model

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted 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).

Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, who has served as principal of Xavier College Preparatory since 1974, will take over as the school's president July 1. (CATHOLIC SUN file photo)
Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, who has served as principal of Xavier College Preparatory since 1974, will take over as the school’s president July 1. (CATHOLIC SUN file photo)

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.

“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.”

Since 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.

James Gmelich, who has served as principal of Notre Dame Preparatory since 2013, will take over as the school's president July 1. (CATHOLIC SUN file photo)
James Gmelich, who has served as principal of Notre Dame Preparatory since 2013, will take over as the school’s president July 1. (CATHOLIC SUN file photo)

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.

He 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.

New Xavier Principal Sr. Joanie joined the Phoenix school in 1974 as a history teacher. She previously served as chair of the Department 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 since 2002. Notre Dame Preparatory, with its 900 students, is located in north Scottsdale, 20 miles from downtown Phoenix.