Newark school names new principal - Catholic Courier

Newark school names new principal

A new principal recently took the helm of St. Michael School in Newark, but the new leader is no stranger to the school community.

Pauline DeCann, a longtime teacher at the school, was appointed principal after her predecessor, Shannon Heller, took a vice-principal position at Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney High School over the summer. DeCann and her family have belonged to St. Michael Parish since 1972, and she has taught at the school for 25 years.

DeCann holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from SUNY Geneseo and Nazareth College, respectively, and has spent her entire teaching career at St. Michael. She began teaching fourth grade at the school in 1972, leaving her post in 1975 to raise her two sons.

She later served as a substitute teacher at the school for several years before returning as a part-time English and social studies teacher in 1984. She returned at the urging of then-principal Charlotte Pitrella, whom she had met while both were teachers at the school in the 1970s. Pitrella passed away July 24 at the age of 75.

“She’s the one that pushed me back into the school,” DeCann said.

DeCann taught a variety of subjects and grade levels during her quarter-century at the school, but the majority of those years were spent teaching middle-school English-language arts and religion, she said.

DeCann said she decided to become a teacher because she enjoys learning and sharing knowledge with children. Although she’d never seriously considered a career in school administration until recently, several people had approached her over the years to tell her they thought she’d make a good principal. The first of these people was Pitrella, who retired from her position in 1993.

“When she got ready to retire, she came to me and asked me to consider putting my name in for the position,” DeCann said.

DeCann was very involved in raising her family and didn’t feel the timing was right for her to pursue a new position, so she pushed the notion aside. She did the same when people approached her again in 2002 and 2004 when Kathy Peters and David Doty ended their terms as principal.

“When we found out that Shannon Heller was leaving, I probably had the same reaction as everyone else. I thought, ‘Oh, who’s the next person who’s going to come in here,'” DeCann said.

DeCann’s supporters hadn’t given up, however, and called her and again urged her to apply for the principal position. This time, she listened to their reasons, prayed about it and decided to apply for the position.

“This time, God wasn’t letting me push it away,” she said.

DeCann is looking forward to leading the school she’s been a part of for so long, and she hopes to build up the school’s existing programs.

“I’m hoping that we can continue the wonderful academic and religious program we have here, and I would like to be able to increase our enrollment and make our school more well-known out in the public than it already is,” DeCann said. “I’m going to do my very best and rely on everyone’s prayers and patience and support. I’m not in this alone.”

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