The Interview - Four Years Later

by Dr. Joesph D. Hollowell, 9 yrs ago

I wrote about this a few years ago but it is worth revisiting.  When I became principal of Roncalli in 1990 members of the board that hired me told me that they were not going to micromanage the school but they did have one request.  They wanted for me to hire a Director of Development.  I quickly responded, “I’m happy to do that.  What’s a Director of Development?”

As I began to study the answer to this question, I quickly realized that Roncalli was dreadfully behind in this important component of the operation of a successful Catholic high school.  We were, at that time, the only Catholic high school in the Archdiocese that had no Development Office.  One of the best decisions I ever made was to hire Bob Tully as our first Director of Development.  In May of 1990 our enrollment stood at 620 students.  As Bob and I talked about what we thought we needed to emphasize at Roncalli we soon realized that the quickest way to generate funds needed for the school’s operation was to attract the other 200 students that the school had been built to hold. 

And so we began a formal system of marketing our school with an eye toward better telling the hundreds of success stories of our students and teachers to our broader community.  The Update magazine you are now reading is one of the fruits of our attempts to tell those stories.  We revamped the way we invited students from our South Deanery grade schools and their families to consider making the substantial investment required to be a part of Roncalli.  We advertised on billboards and newspapers.  Most importantly however, we continued to build upon the outstanding quality of the experience of our students.  Our students and our parents have a wonderful story to tell when others asked them about their experience at Roncalli.  As a result of these efforts our enrollment began to grow.  And then it began to mushroom!

As we grew from 600 back to 800 and then to 900 and then to 1,000 all of us – faculty, administration, board members -  constantly asked ourselves the question “Can we maintain all of the good things about our school that people are seeking out as we grow to these higher numbers?”  Our biggest concern has always been that as the school gets larger it becomes easier for students to fall through the cracks and to get lost in the shuffle.  To address this concern we ended up hiring Shellie Hartford as an Assistant Principal of Student Activities to develop and grow the level to which kids can be engaged during their high school years through sports, clubs, and other activities.  What a marvelous job she has done in orchestrating the growth and development of the many vibrant clubs and activities that our students have an opportunity to be a part of!

There is indeed a deep thirst for the unbelievable educational experience offered by our school community.  Roncalli remains one of the finest high schools in the nation.  People want what we are offering. We continue to primarily serve members of our Catholic community as our student body is over 95% Catholic.  We feel that it is the heart of our mission to serve the Catholic families of the South Deanery.  

Four years ago, we took the extraordinary step of implementing an interview and selection process for students coming to us from schools other than our South Deanery grade schools.  After decades as an “open enrollment” school taking everyone who applied, we began the process of evaluating our enrollment of students who have not attended our local Catholic grade schools.  Nearly 20 % of the Class of 2015 will have participated in these interviews.   The desired effect of this decision was not to limit the number of students at the school.  Our real desire is that all families who enroll at Roncalli have the understanding that first and foremost we are a school that celebrates our faith.  Our desire is to maintain the integrity of our mission as a Catholic school supported by our parishes of the South Deanery of Indianapolis.  We are looking to encourage families to not only embrace this faith-based component of our school, but to, in their own special way, allow the body of Christ to grow at Roncalli through their own family’s contribution to the spiritual life and vitality of the school.

After serving on this interview team over the past four years I can tell you that it has been an overwhelming success.  As prospective families pause and reflect on what it is that they want for their children and how Roncalli may provide that, these families  also reflect on their own very real need to give a part of themselves in order to really fully experience all that the Roncalli experience has to offer their family.

We are trying to find the balance and we believe the interview and selection process we have implemented will help us do that.  Please pray for us and our students as we seek God’s will for our school.  And thank you for your unrelenting support of Roncalli!

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