Great Falls Central Catholic High School didn't have to go far to find their new principal. Not only is he a long-time veteran in the classroom, but he's also been active in the Catholic school system.
“I’ve definitely have had an awful lot to do with Catholic schools, Holy Spirit and Lady of Lourdes and Central, for about the last 15 years now,” said incoming principal Sean Donnelly.
Sean Donnelly grew up in Miles City, going to Catholic school through 7th grade.
That tradition continued with his own five children who have attended or are attending Catholic schools in Great Falls.
Donnelly, who graduated from MSU-Billings and earned a masters and doctorate from MSU in Bozeman has spent the better part of the last 25 years teaching social studies at Great Falls High.
He was recently named principal at Great Falls Central Catholic High School and feels his time in the public system has prepared him for the position.
“Just the experience that you get from dealing with so many different people over the years in different situations and obviously teaching a lot of history classes to a lot of different kids, a lot of different kinds of kids,” said Donnelly. “And then dealing with the parents and other faculty and administration.”
Donnelly’s preparation was also seasoned by spending a year as an administrative intern with Great Falls Public Schools on the grade 6-12 level.
Moving from public system to a private, Catholic school presents challenges, most notably in funding.
“You have different sources of support that are not the way that it's set up for public schools,” said Donnelly. “So you have to think about some of those things a little bit differently to make sure that you're able to have all the resources that you need and provide the best possible Catholic education that you can.”
But Donnelly says the new job also brings opportunities.
“You can have things like faith and reason combined to learn what the truth is about whatever subject or issue it is that you're learning about,” said Donnelly. “We have some great opportunities to do that here, where we're free to talk about and discuss and learn things that might be harder in another setting or in another kind of school.”
As a leader, Donnelley describes himself as competent, dedicated, trustworthy and wanting others to do well. He says he’s a firm believer in answering three questions when people meet him.
“One of those is, Can I trust you? Another one is, Do you care about me? And the third one is, are you committed to excellence?” said Donnelly. “So I try to remind myself of that every day and do the best I can to communicate it to other people and really lead by example.”
Donnelly says he doesn’t foresee making drastic changes and is open to innovative ideas.
“It's not so much that people don't like change as that people don't like being changed,” said Donnelly. “So I think whatever changes we do make as we go forward, we need to communicate that really well and people need to feel like their voices and their concerns in that issue are being heard.”
Donnelly says he feels Catholic education is at the beginning of a new era.
“With Bishop Fleming coming in, his support that he has given for Catholic education and that our world needs Catholic schools, our community, our parishes need Catholic schools,” said Donnelly.
Donnelly will succeed longtime Great Falls educator and principal Brian Held who has been performing the GFCC principal duties on an interim basis.
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