New Leadership Marks Back to School at Area Catholic Schools

August 22, 2003

When students start school at area Catholic schools this fall, 14 new elementary school principals, two of whom were principals at other Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, will join them in marking the start of the new school year. Nearly 34,000 students are enrolled in 109 Catholic schools, including 91 elementary schools, in the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes the District of Columbia and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.

The first day of classes for Catholic elementary schools in Southern Maryland (Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties) will be Tuesday, August 26. The first day of classes for Catholic schools in Washington, DC, and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will be September 2.

The new principals are:

District of Columbia. Ms. Valerie L. Swain is principal of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, just east of Lincoln Park in Southeast. A native Washingtonian, she was principal for four years at St. Ann’s High School of St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville, MD. She also taught art and mathematics at St. Ann’s High School over the past 14 years. She also taught art at All Saints High School in Northeast Washington, DC.

Mrs. Rose Thomas is the new principal at St. Benedict the Moor School in Northeast, near RFK Stadium, where she has served as assistant principal for the past 28 years, and taught kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grades. Mrs. Thomas is a native Washingtonian.

St. Gabriel Catholic School, Grant Circle, NW, is starting its 79th year with a new principal, Ms. Mónica Arcé. A teacher for seven years, Ms. Arcé most recently taught 3rd grade at St. Augustine Catholic School in Northwest. Previously, she taught 6th grade at the Metropolitan Day School. She also served as the Program Director at the Metropolitan/Delta Adult Literacy Council in Washington, DC.

Montgomery County. In Darnestown, Mary of Nazareth School’s new principal is Mr. Michael J. Friel. Mr. Friel was assistant principal at St. Catherine Labouré School in Wheaton. He served for a year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in St. Louis, and later taught at Link Community School in Newark, NJ. He taught for four years at St. Catherine Labouré and was assistant principal for the past five years.

Mrs. Janet M. Cantwell is the new principal of St. Bernadette School in Silver Spring. A 19-year veteran of teaching, Mrs. Cantwell most recently was principal of St. Bernard’s School in Riverdale Park, MD. Mrs. Cantwell has served as assistant principal at Blessed Sacrament School in Northwest Washington and previously taught first grade at St. Andrew Apostle School in Silver Spring.

The new principal at St. Camillus School in Silver Spring is Mr. John Black. He served as principal for four years in a K-8 Catholic school in northern California and taught middle school in Catholic schools in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Mr. Black also has taught overseas in Africa with the Peace Corps and at an international school in Honduras.

Mrs. Cheryl Murzyn is the new principal of St. Elizabeth School in Rockville. She previously worked as coordinator for the School-Based Learning Center for the Montgomery County Public Schools. She also has served as assistant principal at a Catholic elementary school in Williamsville, NY, and as principal of an alternative high school for at-risk youth in White Plains, NY.

The new principal at St. Martin School in Gaithersburg is Mr. Donald Jackson. For the last four years, he was adjunct professor in Johns Hopkins University’s Professional Immersion Master of Arts in Teaching Program in the Montgomery County Public Schools. He has nearly 25 years’ experience as principal and assistant principal in public schools in Montgomery County.

Prince George’s County. Mr. Philip Buckley is the new principal of St. Bernard of Clairvaux School in Riverdale Park. Last year, as assistant principal, he served with the principal, Mrs. Janet Cantwell, now at St. Bernadette, Silver Spring. In addition to being the assistant principal, Mr. Buckley also taught in a variety of classroom settings at the school. He also taught 6th, 7th and 8th grades at St. Catherine Labouré School in Wheaton.

Mr. Patrick Hanus is the new principal at St. Mary School of Piscataway in Clinton. For the past two years, he served as assistant principal at a Catholic pre-K to grade 12 school in Gallup, NM, and has nearly 10 years’ experience teaching elementary and high school students. He also lived in Managua, Nicaragua for a year and taught sixth grade at a private Catholic school.

The new principal at St. Mary School, Landover Hills is Mrs. Susan Varrone. She has nearly 30 years’ experience in Catholic education, and was a teacher and director of teacher development at Archbishop Carroll High School and previously taught at the now-closed All Saints High School and Immaculate Conception High School in Washington, DC.

Charles County. Mr. Howard Dent is the new principal of St. Mary, Star of the Sea School in Indian Head. He previously served as principal of St. Mary’s School of Piscataway and St. Mary’s School in Bryantown. A native Washingtonian, Mr. Dent also taught and served in administration at St. John’s College High School in Northwest Washington, DC, where he worked for 17 years, five years as assistant principal for academic affairs. He also taught at Holy Trinity School in Georgetown.

St. Mary’s County. Mr. Robert Ligday is the new principal of Mother Catherine Spalding School in Helen. Over the past two years, he has taught at Little Flower School in Great Mills. After 22 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, he retired in 1996 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. As a research and development manager, he headed the Air Force’s Laser Systems Division in Albuquerque, NM.

Contact:
Jennifer Reed
Office of Communications
301-853-4562
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