A historic Bronx school is entering its next chapter with a new principal who says he’s ready for the challenges faced by Catholic schools in the 21st Century.
Monsignor Scanlan High School appointed longtime educator and former Nazareth Regional High School principal Peter Doran as the school’s new chief, and the leader of teachers and students said he plans to use the knowledge he gained at that Brooklyn school as the foundation for his new institution’s future success.
“I’m thrilled to be coming to Scanlan,” said Doran, who started his career teaching in 1981 and has been an administrator since 1990. “I want to continue the great work done here for 65 years.”
Doran arrives at a time when Catholic schools across the city are facing rising tuitions and decreasing enrollment. There are now 390 students at Monsignor Scanlan, he said, which only fills two of the five buildings on the campus, and he’d like to get that number up to 600 within the next three years.
His strategy for increasing enrollment is two-fold: he’ll strengthen student outreach by focusing energy on visiting feeder Catholic grammar schools and increase fund-raising from alumni in order to keep tuition down and offer more partial scholarships.
“We have to help parents out somehow,” said Doran.
It’s important that alumni connect with the current students at the school, he said, so he would like to host dinners at the school to give students an opportunity to meet the alumni and form relationships.
Doran said similar efforts to increase enrollment at Nazareth worked while he was there, with enrollment increasing from 525 students to 635 students over five years.
But on top of strengthening the school in the long term, Doran faces the more immediate challenge of building his school’s trust in the fall.
Doran said he’ll start by projecting a no-nonsense exterior in order to gain respect, and he has high expectations that kids follow the rules. But he said he doesn’t want his Catholic schools to be a considered a place with harsh consequences.
“I want it to be a place where they learn discipline, not be disciplined,” he said.
And while he can be tough but fair, Doran said he likes to joke around with his students. It is important to meet the students on their level, he said, that way they feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
“You have to show the kids you have a heart,” he said.