Michael Deely, the principal at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, Calif., has accepted the position of headmaster at Pope John Paul II High School, Bishop David Choby has announced.
“We had excellent candidates apply for the position, and each of the finalists had his or her own strengths,” Bishop Choby said. “Mr. Deely stood out among the many applicants. His commitment to the faith, his experience, and his personality make him the best person to lead the school into the future.”
Deely will become JPII’s third headmaster when he assumes his responsibilities on July 1, 2015. He succeeds Faustin Weber, who announced last May that he planned to step down at the end of the 2014-15 school year so he could move closer to family.
Deely received a letter about the JPII position from Carney, Sandoe and Associates, the search firm hired by JPII to assist with finding a new headmaster, he said. “I read about the school. I felt like the Holy Spirit hit me,” said Deely. When he showed the letter to his wife Susan, he said, her response was “Wow.”
“The more I found out about (JPII), it was phenomenal,” Deely added.
“I’ve been looking for a new challenge and opportunity,” Deely said. He and his wife, who also is a Catholic educator, “were looking for a place where we could raise our kids,” Clare, 6, and Atticus, 3.
Deely, 44, has been principal at Cathedral Catholic, which has a president and principal, since 2006. As principal, he has been involved in all aspects of the operation of Cathedral Catholic, a co-ed school with an enrollment of about 1,700 students.
Cathedral Catholic was originally known as the University of San Diego High School, but was renamed when the school was moved to a new campus in northern San Diego County in 2005.
Deely began his career as an educator in 1994 when he served as a history and theology teacher, campus minister and a football coach at University of San Diego High, his alma mater. In 2001, he left to become the principal of St. Charles Borromeo Academy, a kindergarten through eighth grade school in San Diego, a position he held until 2006.
Deely holds an M.A. in History with a Latin American emphasis from the University of San Diego, and a California Clear Credential certificate in Social Studies from the United States International University. He attended St. Patrick’s Seminary where he completed 43 units toward a master’s degree in theology. He received a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in philosophy from the University of San Diego.
“Mike Deely is the ideal candidate to lead JPII as our new headmaster,” said John Sooker, chair of the JPII Board of Trustees. “Mike’s strong Catholic identity coupled with his outstanding administrative and leadership competencies position him well to be very successful at JPII. The entire Board looks forward to working with Mike. His references and their recommendations were outstanding.”
“My educational philosophy centers on my belief that God gives all students talents and gifts and that educators help the students to identify, develop, and then use these gifts to build His kingdom,” Deely wrote in his application. “I want all my students to see their gifts, their chosen careers, and their commitment to their families as their personal vocation.
“I believe a successful Catholic school balances solid academics, with a variety of extracurriculars, and an active faith community,” he added. “In order to create this community and to partner with students and parents in the process, a school must be made of faculty, staff, coaches, and administrators who are completely committed to these ideas. However, this community must allow for different approaches to teaching and working that lead to the same results.”
“I’m a lifer” in Catholic education, Deely said, having attended and worked in Catholic schools since he was a child. “The best way I connected to my faith was through Catholic schooling,” he said. “It’s our best tool for evangelization.”
Bishop Choby selected Deely after an extensive national search led by a search committee chaired by JPII board vice president Dr. Jennifer Uhl. The committee included Sooker, board members Father Eric Fowlkes, Sharon Edwards, Stephen Cook and Dr. Joe Fox, parent and former board member Bill Wood, faculty members, Karen Phillips, Andrew Griffith, Jennifer Dye and Brad Peper, diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Therese Williams, and Bill Whalen, chief financial officer of the Diocese of Nashville.
The committee received about 100 applications for the position, Uhl said, and the search firm recommended about 25 for the committee to consider further. The committee conducted interviews via Skype with several of the applicants, including Deely. “That interview … is what got the committee excited,” Uhl said. “He was very well prepared.”
Deely was one of four candidates invited to JPII for a more formal interview with the committee, faculty members and parents, Uhl said.
“His experience, his charisma, his expectations,” all impressed the search committee, Uhl said. “He has the energy the school needs at this point.”
“He’s extremely bright and quick in terms of processing questions and providing detailed responses,” said Karen Phillips, the Dean of Studies at JPII, a member of the faculty since the school opened in 2002 and a member of the search committee. “He has a lot of experience with the kind of challenges this school presents.”
The committee was looking for someone who could build relationships both within the school structure and with people in the broader community, Uhl said, “someone capable of telling the story of JPII.”
“He’s high energy,” Phillips said. “I see him furthering the mission of this school.”
One of Deely’s first tasks as headmaster will be leading the school through the preparation of a new strategic plan beginning in 2016. He called working on a strategic plan a “perfect way” to learn about the school, “to learn what they need and what they need from me.”
Deely is already impressed with JPII. “I’ve dealt with a lot of schools,” he said. “To be that young and have accomplished that much is really impressive.”
When he arrives at JPII, which currently has an enrollment of about 575 students, Deely will be running a much smaller school. “I do like to engage the students,” he said. “A smaller campus means more time with the students. I look forward to having more time to make connections.”
Deely plans to visit JPII after the start of the new year to meet with students, faculty, staff and parents. He and his family plan on moving to Tennessee in June, he said