Catholic Free Press

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  • Sep
  • 12

Millbury school year starts with new principal

Posted By September 12, 2014 | 11:23 am | Lead Story #2
Father Daniel R. Mulcahy and Principal John Hoogasian have a message.
Father Daniel R. Mulcahy and Principal John Hoogasian have a message.

By Tanya Connor

MILLBURY – God loves us – and others. And we should do the same.
A new principal and pastor are seeking to counter a culture of violence with this message.
John Hoogasian said Father Daniel R. Mulcahy, who became pastor of St. Brigid and Our Lady of the Assumption parishes July 1, hired him as interim principal of Assumption Elementary shortly before school began. The former principal, Joan Matys, recommended him, he said. Officially retired from the military and the academic arena, he taught French here from January to June this year.
“I just loved the school,” he said, adding that teachers and students were great, and the parents supportive.
“There’s an element in society that would take God out of society,” said Mr. Hoogasian, who, with his wife, is a member of Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish in Spencer. “It’s a secular, progressive movement. It’s a very liberal agenda.
“As we can see, the increased violence in society and the desensitivity to it is counter to our message that God loves us and we should love one another. There has to be a beacon of light to show our youngsters that there’s another way. And this is what we have with Catholic education; it’s a measure of stability in a tumultuous environment.
“Distinguishing us also in the educational realm is we have a safe, caring environment which allows our students to focus on their  education … a departure from the distractions that children get in other educational settings.”
Echoing some of Mr. Hoogasian’s themes was Father Mulcahy, who said he was chaplain for several years at what was then Worcester Central Catholic Elementary School. He said he also helped at Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School in Uxbridge when stationed in the Uxbridge and Linwood parishes.
“I see my role … to be a priest,” he said, and spoke of celebrating liturgies, giving retreats to students and support to staff, working with the principal and implementing the school’s spiritual and moral mission.
Asked what that is, he said, “If our kids can gain a sense here that they are loved by God” – and so are their fellow students and teachers – “that will lead to a great respect for others, the spark of God in others.
“I think that sows the seeds for a good, dedicated, moral adult and, ideally, Christian,” he said. “If you know that you are from God and another is from God, that callousness toward violence … that’s not part of your program. …
He said he’s always believed that if one can bring children into a safe, ordered environment where there is “rhyme and reason, harmony of purpose,” one can introduce ideas that shake them up a bit. It’s like walking a tightrope – with a net underneath.
For example, he said, a teacher asked him to come to a junior high class. As the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States approaches, students have been wondering: “If God loves us, why does he allow bad things to happen?”
“Kids are affected by that,” the pastor said. “We have drills. We have lockdowns.” But in a safe environment, they can begin to wrestle with such things.
He spoke of seeing a happiness in the faculty and a lack of fear in students.
A year ago, four teachers and two specialists at the school resigned after expressing dissatisfaction with the administration of the school.
“The organizational climate of this school has changed dramatically since the arrival of Father Dan,” Mr. Hoogasian said. “The leadership in any organization has to set a tone.”
Since he and Father Mulcahy took the helm, three more students have enrolled, he said. With 125 students and 10 new and veteran teachers, there is an excellent student-teacher ratio, he said. “Father Dan and I are the grease and the glue of the school,” the principal said. Grease, he said, makes things happen, motivating people. Glue causes people and resources to stick together.
“We are in the business of bringing people together for a common goal” – the school’s success – he said. “There’s always going to be organizational conflict. It’s how you handle it.” He said those involved need to find common ground.
Mr. Hoogasian has a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from the University of Connecticut, and a certificate of advanced graduate studies in the same from Worcester State University, where he also got his bachelor’s and a master’s degrees.
He has more than 30 years of experience in public education at the elementary, middle school, junior high, high school and graduate college levels, in addition to working in private education, according to his resume.
From 1971 to 2001 he served Southbridge public schools, retiring as principal of Wells Middle School in 2001.
He was principal of St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School in Fitchburg from 2003-2004, and he still coaches track and field at the College of the Holy Cross.
Mr. Hoogasian was also an Instructor in the Command and General Staff College, U.S. Army Reserve, from 1991 to 1996. He was a professor of military science for the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Connecticut in 2008 and 2009.
He served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard from 1971 to 1980 and in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1980 to 2009, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2009.
His tours of duty were at the Pentagon from November 2001 to June  2002;  the U.S. Army Infantry Center, Fort Benning, Ga., from November 2004 to September 2005, and from July to October, 2008, and at Fort Belvoir, Va., from Aug. 2006 to Aug. 2007.
Back in the academic field, Mr. Hoogasian says, “I have fun with everything I do. This school is going to be the best in the entire diocese.”