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Two principals take the helm at St. Angela School

Lisa Whelan and Elizabeth Andrachik

By KEVIN KELLEY
FAIRVIEW PARK

When classes start at St. Angela Merici School next week, the school will have two principals for the first time in its 94-year history.

Elizabeth Andrachik will lead the Lower School, consisting of kindergarten through grade four. Lisa Whelan will oversee grades five through eight in the Upper School. They will succeed Christine Bopp, who retired in June.

When Bopp announced her plans to leave in January, the Rev. Michael Lanning, the pastor, decided education has become so complex that two principals would be better than one.

“Schooling today is a complex endeavor,” Lanning said. “The parents want to have much more immediate access with the leadership in schools today.”

Lanning understood this means greater demands on the time of principals. “Educators today are putting in more hours than ever before,” the pastor said.

The appointments of Andrachik and Whelan were announced in February. The reaction has been well received by the school community, they said. “Not one negative comment,” Lanning said.

Andrachik and Whelan said they’re excited about the new administrative structure and appear to work well together. They took similar paths to St. Angela and have deep ties to the parish.

Andrachik graduated from a Catholic high school in her native Indianapolis, where her mother taught in a Catholic school. She earned a degree in education from Xavier University, where she met her husband, Keith, a 1988 graduate of St. Angela. After marrying in 2001, they moved to the Cleveland area, where she taught fourth- and fifth-graders in the Berea City Schools.

She stepped away from the classroom for a few years after having two children, then returned to teaching fourth-grade at St. Ambrose School in Brunswick. In 2014, a position teaching second grade opened at St. Angela, where her children attend.

Whelan graduated from St. Angela in 1989 before attending Magnificat High School and Bowling Green State University, where she studied education. After graduating, she taught kindergarten at St. Angela. Most of her kindergarteners attended her wedding to her husband, John, at St. Angela Merici Church in December 1999.

Whelan then left for a few years to teach in an urban school, then returned to St. Angela to teach third grade. Her oldest son graduated from the school in June, and another son and daughter are students there.

Both Andrachik and Whelan were nominated for an educational leadership program at Notre Dame College in South Euclid. Andrachik recently completed the program, while Whelan will finish in 2018.

The two new principals said the new structure makes sense because 6-year-olds and 13-year-olds have different maturity levels and educational needs.

The rebranding of upper and lower schools, Whelan said, also shows St. Angela is adopting the specialization that’s come to education. That’s important in a day when many Catholic schools are seeing enrollment declines, she said.

“Parents are now questioning if the financial aspect is worth it to them,” Whelan said of the tuition costs.

Andrachik said the faculty will be taking a more personal approach to teaching, taking into account the individual needs of each student. Greater personalization in the delivery of education is a nationwide trend.

The school currently has 383 students, and the average class size is 21, they said. The tuition is $3,610 for the first child, $2,775 for a second child, $2,475 for a third and no charge for a fourth. The non-parishioner tuition rate is set at $4,600.

The school recently applied with the Ohio Department of Education to be designated as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school. To achieve the designation, a school must offer a rigorous, project-based curriculum in those subjects that prepares students for college and the workforce. Science teachers at St. Angela have taken specialized training offered by the Diocese of Cleveland’s education office, Andrachik noted.

The two administrators are also implementing what they say is a more positive approach to discipline. If a student gets in a playground fight, instead of going to detention and do busy work, he will be asked to write about what happened after reading a poem or essay about personal behavior.

The goal of this approach, Whelan said, is to get the student to take ownership of his actions and develop a plan to behave better instead of becoming defensive. “We’re trying to stop going to the punitive state as a first step,” Whelan explained.

St. Angela also has a preschool program, which is led by Christina Kutz.

 

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