The new president of St. Maria Goretti Catholic High School, Joseph O. Padasak, has made it his mission to hire more teachers and increase the number of students enrolled in the school north of Hagerstown.
Goretti currently has 175 students.
âWe have work to do,â he said. “I want to bring that number down to 225 students.”
Padasak, who took office as president on May 3 shortly before the school closed for the summer, served as superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District in Pennsylvania from 2006 to 2019.
He arrives at mixed Catholic high school at a difficult time for education as many teachers have left the profession due to COVID-19. It has also been a difficult time for the students, who have seen their routines disrupted as they transitioned from classroom learning to online learning.
Padasak said he and school officials are focusing their enrollment efforts in neighboring West Virginia, which only provides about 15% of the school’s current enrollment.
âThere’s a lot of (residential) growth, rapid growth,â Padasak said of the Eastern Panhandle counties of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan. “There is an opportunity there.”
The school draws about half of its students from Washington County, 20% from Pennsylvania, 10% from Frederick County, Maryland, and 5% from other areas.
Of the 175 students coming to the school this fall, approximately 55 students will be freshmen.
Padasak said it will be the largest freshman class in five years.
It costs $ 16,250 per year to attend Goretti, although financial assistance is available, said board chairman Robert Cirincione.
The teachers wanted
COVID-19 restrictions and teaching methods have also led some teachers to leave the private school near Hagerstown, leaving a void that Padasak is working to fill.
âSome of the staff are gone so I want the staff to stabilize,â he said. “It has been a stressful year with COVID. Some teachers have left for better opportunities, and many have just been exhausted from blended teaching.”
Hybrid education involved classroom and online education.
âBefore COVID, education was stricter, but things were more relaxed during COVID, and some didn’t like it,â Padasak said. “I want to have staff there. I want experienced staff.”
His efforts seem to be paying off.
The school has a new theater director, a biology teacher and a chemistry teacher. There are 13 faculty members now, according to the school’s website.
Padasak said his administrative team was pretty well established.
âIt was my # 1 priority,â he said.
Padasak succeeded interim president Thomas Burnford, who held the post for eight months. Burnford succeeded former president Christopher Cosentino.
Padasak holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, a Masters of Education from Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland, and a Doctor of Education from Widener University. outside of Philadelphia.
Cirincione, the chairman of the board, said the board’s research team felt Padasak had the right qualifications for the job.
âHe had experience and education at all levels,â Cirincione said. “Joe has the experience to deal with any problem that he might face extremely well.”
Cirincione said Padasak is an “exceptionally” good person.
âHe embodies the principles we stand for,â he said. âWe welcome all students, Catholics and non-Catholics, and Joe absolutely embraced him. He’s kind, he’s caring, he’s just a strong person. With his background, he’s a perfect fit. He likes challenges and c ‘is a repairman. “
Padasak, 64, retired from the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania area school district in 2019 and was preparing for the next stage in his life.
âBasically I had a lot of retirement plans and then COVID came along,â he said. “This opportunity presented itself and it was something that interested me.”
Since Padasak lives in Berks County, Pa., He plans to work a lot from home or telecommute, due to the distance, he said.
Padasak said he also had a home in neighboring Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
âInitially it will be a full-time job, it could eventually become part-time,â he said. âI really need to define the program and position the staff. ”
Cirincione said board members are “very comfortable” with Padasak living outside Washington County, and that he will be physically present every day of the week and on weekends when needed. .
Regarding the job eventually becoming part-time, Cirincione refused to predict the future.
“We have to right the ship and move it forward,” he said.
Padasak and his wife, Cathy, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in October. They have three children and two grandchildren.
Sherry Greenfield is an education reporter covering Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Board of Education. Follow Sherry on Twitter at Sheina2018 or Instagram at beckmangreenfield.