Prep's 32nd President
Well, it’s been a little more than two months since my appointment was made official; and I am very much looking forward to July 1 when I will formally begin my tenure as president at Prep. Obviously, there is still much for me to do in my current role at Jesuit High School of New Orleans; and I am still completely engaged in giving my all on a daily basis to what has been a wonderful vocation for twelve years as principal here.
But my daily vocation here in New Orleans has not prevented me from staying in touch on a regular basis with numerous administrators, faculty members, board members, and so many friends of Prep. I have already learned so much about the special place Prep is, and I look forward to everything that will continue to unfold for me in the process of learning, listening, and being with the Prep family. And it continues to be a blessing for me and Donnamaria to be so welcomed by the Prep family. We literally receive kind emails, letters, and well-wishes of all sorts on a near daily basis still. That is truly special and truly appreciated.
As I compose this communication, we are only days away from our first “official” visit to Omaha. Donnamaria and I will spend a good amount of time looking for possible places to live; and, of course, I will spend some quality time at Prep with various groups of people. We also are looking forward to a healthy dose of socializing throughout our five-day visit. We’re not sure if Omaha has any of “that frozen stuff falling from the sky” in store for our visit, but something tells me we’ll have many opportunities to experience that in the future. On a related note, in my forty-nine years, it has snowed eight or nine times in New Orleans. No, that is not a typo—eight or nine times since 1963!
Speaking of New Orleans, I had the good fortune from January 17-20, 2013 to attend the JSEA Presidents’ Conference right here in the Big Easy. What a wonderful opportunity this was for me to meet new and veteran presidents of Jesuit secondary schools throughout the United States and to share with my brother presidents all the good (and sometimes not so good) things about our schools. A special treat throughout the conference was the opportunity for me to spend real quality time with Fr. Andy Alexander, Prep’s current president. What a pleasure it has been to get to know Fr. Andy and to be welcomed by him throughout the selection process and since my appointment. He truly has gone out of his way—and continues to do so—to ensure that I will “know the ropes” once July 1 arrives.
Of course, like the JSEA Principals’ Conferences where, over these last twelve years, I have enjoyed getting to know Mr. Naatz and the special person he is, these JSEA Presidents’ Conferences have numerous agenda items to help us advance the mission of our schools on many levels. It was gratifying for me to get to know new presidents—Jesuit and lay—who painted a very thorough picture about what the vocation as president really has in store for those fortunate enough to be presidents in our high schools. Especially important for me was the interaction I had with lay presidents who have been in their roles for many years now and who have been very successful in their roles at Jesuit secondary schools all across the United States.
Several presidents shared their pearls of wisdom for a new president coming into a very successful Jesuit high school. One of the main areas of discussion on this topic centered on the delicate balance between nurturing the traditions of the very successful school while, at the same time, helping the school to move forward to experience even greater success. Of course, this is no easy task; but it is one to which I look forward in the coming years.
The coming years will have their share of successes and challenges for all of our Jesuit secondary schools, and some of these challenges were discussed throughout the conference. Of course, what follows is not an exhaustive list, but it does represent some of the greatest challenges facing all of our schools—Jesuit and non-Jesuit Catholic schools, elementary and secondary, including Prep. These challenges concern 1) a declining birth rate among all segments of society, 2) maintaining tuition costs at levels that allow schools to perform at high levels while at the same time being affordable to the middle class in economically difficult times, 3) managing the ever-expanding possibilities of how to integrate technology wisely into the learning process, 4)the increasing numbers of parents who are choosing home-schooling for their children—a trend that is aided by ever-increasing options for on-line learning, and 5)the option for students to receive a solid, well-rounded education at public and charter schools that charge no tuition. This last item is especially true in New Orleans which has seen the explosion of excellent charter schools since the public school system was nearly completely destroyed by the flood waters of Katrina.
These challenges are certainly real, but they are no reason to be negative. However, they are a reason to be positive, proactive, reflective, innovative, strategic, unapologetic, and assertive about sharing Prep’s story and about what Prep’s story has to offer the future generations of young men in the Omaha community. I cannot wait to help Prep tackle these challenges. And in being open to God’s grace, we will face all of these challenges and overcome them A.M.D.G.—For the Greater Glory of God.
May God continue to bless you, your families, and all the members of the Prep family.
Michael A. Giambelluca
February 4, 2013
Sincerely,Click HERE to view Michael's Welcome video.