This evening, Bishop O’Connell’s Board of Governors meets for the first of its five bi-monthly meetings for the 2023-2024 school year, the last of which will be in early June. Unsung (and intentionally so) standouts within the O’Connell community, this 12-person group of talented, dedicated, and mission-centric people are volunteers who have at least one thing in common: a deep connection to and/or abiding love for our school. Called on to serve in an advisory capacity and from a 30,000 foot, strategic and fiduciary level, the Board serves a critical role. Truly, no school could function at maximum and joyful capacity if school leadership and the Board weren’t working well together. In my three plus years here, I have been blessed to have worked alongside two excellent Board Chairs—Dede O’Donnell ’73 and Beth Lewarne (the parent of four O’Connell graduates)—and, happily, the Board’s leadership pipeline over the next few years is marked by similar type excellence. In addition to these twelve volunteers, five other individuals, all of whom are employed by the diocese, serve on the Board as ex officio members: the diocesan superintendent of schools and four O’Connell administrators—the principal, business manager, chaplain, and head of school. The development and ongoing rollout of Bishop O’Connell’s Five-Year Strategic Plan (2023-2028) is a prime example of the productive collaboration between the Board and school leadership, as throughout this year-long process, school planning efforts were supported on a regular basis by members of the Board’s Strategic Planning and Marketing Committee. Fittingly, the Board formally approved this seminal document at its concluding meeting this past June. In moving forward, I believe our Strategic Plan 2023-2028 lays out in exemplary, inspiring, and do-able fashion—a plan that seamlessly will mesh individual and small-group autonomy with broad-scale collaboration and teamwork that in the end will have provided the school the framing and impetus to grow, evolve, and improve, thus availing our youngsters with an even finer education and student experience, that is rooted in the life of Christ, and indeed is second to none. Thank you, past, current, and future members of the Board for your tireless dedication, extraordinary service, and balance and perspective extended honorably and selflessly to a school that all of us love and care deeply for and about.
"100 Words" (which, in actual fact, is rarely less than 300 words in length) provides me an enjoyable weekly platform by which to communicate to the school community on numerous topic areas–reflections from week to week on my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings, etc. that fall within the realm, and in no patterned way whatsoever (trust me), of the prosaic to the lyrical, the informational to the aspirational, the serious to the whimsical, the arcane to the profound, the secular to the spiritual...you get the picture.
My goal and aspiration is for you, my reader, to get to know me as I continue to get to know the Bishop O'Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take a couple minutes every week to read and mull over my (more or less) 300 words.
As you read this, Back to School Night will be upon us, as later this evening hundreds and hundreds of Bishop O’Connell parents will come to campus to meet and hear from our 100-plus teachers about the year that just recently got underway. Thank you, parents, for attending. You may think this isn’t a big deal, but I can assure you that you being here tonight sends an important message about your interest in the life of your student (remember the concept of “mattering”?). And thank you, teachers, for showcasing so well who you are, what you’re about—logistically, pedagogically, personality-wise, etc.— and how much joy you bring to that which you do as an educator--one of the great callings in the world. Tonight, parents, you’ll recognize, and thoroughly appreciate, how much your son or daughter does and is called on to do in a typical academic day, which of course won’t even take into account all that goes on after school for the majority of our young people in terms of athletics, fine arts and other extra-curricular activities…and then there’s homework. Phew, I’m exhausted even thinking about being 16 again! One thing is for sure: our teens have extremely busy and fully dimensional lives, so let’s all savor the informative, collegial, and uplifting experience that tonight will bring in getting to know one another and in celebrating the oneness of this Christ-centric community, a community beautifully and authentically framed by faith, hope, and love.
Wow, how did we end up with this Texas-in-July heat blast?! I guess if the biggest thing to complain about is the unseasonably hot weather we’re experiencing, a lot must be going well here at Bishop O’Connell--which, dear readers, is the case! This week is a fun week in which things start to roll into routine—for students this means getting more used to classes, for teachers it’s getting to know the names, habits, and personalities of students, and for administrators this means happily witnessing a return to a natural rhythm—a sense of continuity. The numerous students I have spoken to over the past week have expressed a great degree of satisfaction with how the year is going, and it warms my heart that practically every one of them has responded to my query with something along the lines of the following (each of these is an actual quote): “Great, I couldn’t be happier,” or “My classes are more challenging than I expected, but I’m up to the challenge,” or even “I can’t really pick one [a favorite class], as I like them all and I also like all of my teachers.” One student, a senior, noted that while his schedule is at least as challenging as ever before (4 APs), he is feeling less pressure this year than he did a year ago, chalking up this feeling to “the power of the white polo.” There’s a lot to be said in fact for institutional continuity, especially so if the continuity being referenced is a continuity of excellence, which I believe we have here at O’Connell. We are starting the year with the highest faculty/staff retention rate we have had in many years, and among our administrative leadership team, not a single one is new to O’Connell, and in fact, at least seven of them have a dozen or more years at our school. Tomorrow, blessedly, brings a break in the weather, but don’t expect this hot-potato start to the school year to cool off anytime soon. DJO is a cool place, for sure, but it’s also H-O-T! Go Knights!