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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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    Stabiles at the Zugspitze

    Dan and Monica Stabile once again proved that moss never grows under their feet. Dan is one of Bishop O'Connell's 11th and 12th grade counselors, and Monica is a long-time German teacher in the world languages department. This year's summer adventure took them on a five-week journey through Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Italy, including stops at some of their favorite, often-visited places, such as Munich and the Alps, Monica's ancestral city of Bamberg, and the Moselle Valley.

    We thank Monica for sharing the following highlights with us:

    As global citizens, we set out to increase our awareness of the cultural components of each country and region. Border checks are gone, but each place visited had unique characteristics. As ambassadors for the US, we engaged in many conversations with relatives and old and new friends about their political systems, religious constructs, and social and economic systems. There is concern about American political policy and support of Europe, namely NATO, climate change, trade issues and security issues. While visiting schools, we learned that Europe's challenges are common with the US with misuse of social media and drug abuse on the rise. There is an increase in church attendance among young men and women. This is attributed to the pastoral leadership style of Pope Frances as he is referred to as "the peoples' Pope."

    There is always a spiritual pilgrimage component to our trips and 32 churches were visited. We attended mass at the Regensburg Dom and heard its world-famous boys choir sing, stood in amazement below the Chagal window in Metz, France and walked through the splendor of the Vatican's St. Peter. High on a hill, overlooking the beautiful Moselle valley, we found a pilgrimage church. At the altar was an open book with a prayer for visitors. The prayer asked to find strengthened faith and hope and to carry it back to families, friends and the workplace.

    Highlights and new experiences included the magnificence of the German Alps, visiting the city of Karlsruhe where we met in 1976, driving through the battlefields of Verdun, touring the Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic, and purchasing antique religious art in Munich and Rome.

    After returning our rental car at the Munich airport, we extended our layover in Rome to a week in the true Roman neighborhood of Trastevere (across the Tiber). There we immersed ourselves into the daily activities of the Italian lifestyle. We ate at small, family-run restaurants and explored the tiny streets. Dan took his daily morning walk to St. Peter's square. Rome was experiencing a drought and there was much talk of water-rationing. Some fountains were dry. After revisiting the Vatican museums, the Pantheon, the Borghese Gallery, Piazza Navonna and the Trevi Fountain, we agree: the Eternal City is our eternal favorite.

    Photos - (Above) Dan and Monica at the top of the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. (Below) Dan and Monica visiting the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome; and Monica at the Fuggerei Settlement in Augsburg, Germany, the oldest social housing complex in the world that is still in operation today. It dates back to the 14th century. Find out more about this interesting walled village at

    Trevi FountainMonica at Fuggerei

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    1961 Lady Knights Basketball Team

    Victorious Girls Score High
    From the 1961 Visor Yearbook, page 104-105

    "New team, the devoted coaching of Mrs. Bergan and a relentless mind to win are the ingredients that fashioned a most successful season for O'Connell's girls. Led by Bergan, Inc. (Doss and Pat), O'Connell's girls achieved a very respectable 6-2 log in the Washington Metropolitan League. This season indicates many more victorious years to come."

    The team finished with an over all 11-5 record:

    Washington League

    vs. St. Patrick's, 70-23 (W)
    vs. Notre Dame, 28-21 (W)
    vs. St. Mary's, 49-22 (W)
    vs. Trinity, 41-40 (W)
    vs. I.C.A., 57-44 (W)
    vs. St. Cecilia, 26-36 (L)
    vs. Holy Cross, 52-39 (W)
    vs. Immaculata, 39-51 (L)

    Richmond League

    vs. St. Paul's, 61-41 (W)
    vs. Norfolk C., 40-42 (L)
    vs. St. Paul's, 61-22 (W)
    vs. Norfolk C., 53-39 (W)
    vs. Cathedral, 37-57 (L)
    vs. St. Patrick, 43-24 (W)
    vs. Cathedral, 51-44 (W)
    vs. St. Patrick, 49-55 (L)

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    Salamanca main campus

    Six O'Connell students traveled this summer with Spanish teacher, Faryde Yanine, to the University of Salamanca in Spain for a two-week study abroad program. The students began their experience with an initial test to be placed in appropriate levels for their immersive study program in the language, literature, culture, business and much more.

    The study abroad program immersed the students with rigorous academics in the mornings and excursions in the afternoons. With guided tours by the university's own professors, they visited the important sites, including churches, palaces, museums, libraries and convents in Salamanca, Madrid, Toledo, and Segovia. While in Madrid students toured the famous El Prado Museum to see masterpieces from Velazquez, Goya and el Greco. At the Reina Sofia museum, they saw the famous painting of Picasso "El Guernica." Other highlights included walks to the Plaza Mayor to enjoy the local food and the monuments in the streets, and a flamenco show in Salamanca.

    The University of Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in the world. Built in 1218, the university will mark its 800th anniversary next year. Yanine, who received her master's degree in literature in 2014, is invited to return next year for this landmark celebration.

    "I am so proud of these students," said Yanine. "They took full advantage of every experience during this very special program. Their hard work and their enthusiasm payed off earned them two college credits and a once-in-a-lifetime memories."

    Congratulations to Gabriella Grimaldi '19, Karen Hidalgo '17, Ryley Howard '18, Zacharias Muleta '18, Marinna Rodarte '19, and Benjamin Swoopes '18.

    Photos - (Above) The O'Connell group on the main campus of the University of Salamanca; (Below) The Plaza Mayor at night.

    Plaza Mayor

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  • 08/24/17--12:00: Meet Our New Faculty
  • As we enter the 2017-2018 school year, we welcome an inspiring and dedicated group of new teachers and counselors to our faculty. Please take a moment here to get to know them:

    Arcari photo

    Michelle Arcari (Social Studies) – Mrs. Arcari is an attorney who has served both in private practice and as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. She holds a B.A. from Mary Washington College in historic preservation and a J.D. from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. She comes to O'Connell as a career switcher with substitute experience in the Arlington Diocese.
    FUN FACT - She is also a CYO girls basketball coach and a former intercollegiate field hockey player.

    Dawyot photo

    Suzanna Dawyot (English) – Ms. Dawyot received her Masters of Education from Providence College and her B.A. in English literature (with minors in mathematics and philosophy) from The Catholic University of America. For the past four years, she has been teaching language arts and math at Seton School in Manassas, where she also moderated the student council and coached junior high girls soccer. She volunteers her time as a retreat team leader.
    FUN FACT – She is proficient in the Slovenian language.

    DiNunzio photo

    Peggy DiNunzio (Library Assistant) - Mrs. DiNunzio has experience as a pre-school teacher who more recently has been working as a substitute teacher, art teacher and reception coordinator at St. Agnes in Arlington. She holds two associate degrees from Youngstown State University--one in early childhood education and another in nursing. She brings her enthusiasm for student learning and her compassionate approach to student engagement to the O'Connell library.
    FUN FACT - She is the mother of three boys and a former registered nurse.

    Durdle photo

    Erikka Durdle (Social Studies) – Mrs. Durdle is a U.S. Air Force reservist with a B.A. in international relations and African studies from the American Military University, and a M.S. in secondary education (history and social sciences) from Old Dominion University. She completed her student teaching at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, where she taught 9th through 11th grade world and U.S. history.
    FUN FACT – She is a certified Yoga instructor.


    Brittany Gordon (English) – Ms. Gordon comes to O'Connell with six years of teaching experience in Maryland at the elementary and high school level. Most recently she has been teaching at Reid Temple Christian Academy, and was previously at Montrose Christian School. She holds a B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Virginia Tech and recently received her M.Ed. from Walden University.
    FUN FACT - She was a member of the VT women's basketball team, serving as captain her senior year. She continues to coach area girls basketball.

    Hall photo

    Jenny Hall (Math) – Ms. Hall holds a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Texas and a Master's in secondary education from Texas State University. She has taught high school mathematics at international schools in Costa Rica, Thailand and Japan. She recently returned to the U.S. and has been tutoring and substitute teaching in Arlington County. She also has training and experience as an International Baccalaureate teacher and an ESL instructor.
    FUN FACT – She is a long-distance runner and is proficient in the Spanish language.

    Hilla PhotoCharles Hilla (Spanish) – Mr. Hilla has a B.A. in Spanish and international relations from James Madison University, and Is currently enrolled in the M.A. program in international commerce and policy at George Mason University. He studied abroad in Spain and recently completed a full-year teaching/service assignment at the Fe y Alegria School in the Dominican Republic, where all lessons and teacher meetings were conducted in Spanish. He has also served as a "guest educator" and substitute teacher in the D.C. public charter school system.
    FUN FACT – He is a graduate of St. Ann's School in Arlington and now volunteers there with their youth group.


    Robert Horan (Technology/Journalism) – Mr. Horan received his bachelor's degree in communications with a concentration on media production from George Mason University. He has most recently been a part of the alumni service corps at Gonzaga College High School, where he taught television communication and assisted with campus ministry, retreats and media projects. At George Mason he served as the videographer for their Catholic campus ministry program and managed the Mason Cable Network.
    FUN FACT – He is member of the Knights of Columbus (3rd Degree) and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

    Johnson photo

    Rebecca Johnson (Social Studies) – Ms. Johnson holds a B.A. in history and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in secondary history/social studies education. Both her undergraduate and graduate studies were completed at George Mason University. She most recently gained experience in the classroom at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax where she taught 9th grade history and geography.
    FUN FACT – She has published an entry on Betty Washington Lewis in the Mount Vernon Digital Encyclopedia.

    Langer photo

    Sister Margaret Langer, IHM (Expanded Services) – The school is blessed to have Sister Margaret in residence at Bishop O'Connell. As a part of her ministry, she has worked with special needs children and their families for 19 years. Most recently, she has been working with children with hearing loss in Montgomery County Public Schools. She holds a B.A. in social sciences and theology from Immaculata University and an M.Ed. in special education from the College of New Jersey. She later received her M.A. in deaf education from Gallaudet University.
    FUN FACT – She has earned status as a writing consultant for the teaching of writing from the Maryland Writing Project at the University of Towson and in her spare time she is a writing tutor.

    Leipold photo

    Tracey Leipold (11th & 12th Grade Counselor) - Ms. Leipold is a licensed school counselor with a B.A. in Psychology (Le Moyne College) and an M.A. in School Counseling (Appalachian State University). She began her career as an Auxiliary Services Specialist at a residential treatment facility for abused children where she supervised 20 staff members and served as a therapeutic crisis intervention trainer. Her most recent position was at Cornell University as an assistant women's soccer coach and before that at Lemoyne University as head women's soccer coach. In both roles, she worked with student-athlete academic progress, including progress toward degree requirements, working with NCAA requirements, accessing transcripts and test scores for eligibility and admissions, and advising families on academic requirements and FAFSA applications.
    FUN FACT - While in college, she was a member the Le Moyne women's soccer team.

    Madden photo

    Maria Madden (Social Studies) – Ms. Madden originally did her student teaching at Bishop O'Connell, and most recently served as a permanent substitute teacher, including providing long-term coverage for a 9th grade religion class. She previously taught history in the middle school at Saint Theresa School in Ashburn, Va. She holds a B.A. in history from Marymount University. She also has experience in faith formation and in direct service to those in need in her community.
    FUN FACT – She completed coursework on "The World of J.R.R. Tolkien" at a summer study program at Oxford University in the U.K.

    McCartin photo

    Kyle McCartin (Muller Academic Support) – Mr. McCartin received his B.A. in anthropology followed by his M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia. He most recently served as a credit recovery teacher in the Coronado Unified School District in California, where he developed coursework for differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs in grades 9 through 12.
    FUN FACT – He was a three-year football letterman at the University of Virginia, who played and coached one season in the German Football League in Pforzheim, Germany.

    Moore photo

    Melinda Moore (Mathematics) – Mrs. Moore comes to O'Connell after 11 years as a middle school mathematics and religion teacher at St. Mark School in Vienna. She earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from Penn State and holds her Virginia state teaching certification. She also holds an advanced catechist certificate and is experienced in RCIA.
    FUN FACT – She can still do a back handspring.

    Murray photo

    Mary Clare Murray (German) – Mrs. Murray received her B.A. in art history with a minor in German from Bryn Mawr College and her teaching certificate in secondary education/foreign language from George Washington University. She is currently working on a master's degree in world language teaching. She was a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Germany in 1992-1993 and subsequently taught German in Arlington and Loudoun County schools. She has also been involved in special sacramental instruction at St. John the Beloved parish, including First Penance, First Communion and Confirmation.
    FUN FACT - She and her husband met on a blind date arranged by a priest.

    Patak photo

    Alicia Patak (9th & 10th grade counselor) - Ms. Patak is a licensed school counselor with a B.S. in Human Development (State University of New York at Binghamton) and M.A. in School Counseling (Marymount University). Miss Patak completed a year-long internship at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, in addition to a previous counseling internship at Chenango Forks High School in Binghamton. In her experiences she has provided individual counseling, conducted lunch groups on social issues such as anxiety and behavior management; developed and conducted classroom guidance lessons for all numerous grade levels, developed and implemented study skills groups, wrote letters of recommendation for college bound seniors, and collaborated with families, faculty and school administration, social workers and school psychologists.
    FUN FACT - She is a Duke basketball fan.

    Perez photo

    Jonathan Perez (Religion) – Mr. Perez comes to O'Connell with experience as a classroom teacher in Catholic schools as well as in youth ministry and retreat facilitation. He hold a B.A. in history from Old Dominion University and most recently taught at St. Columba Catholic School in Oxon Hill, Md.
    FUN FACT – He is the co-founder of a podcast aimed at building a digital community of Catholic dads who can help each other grow.

    Pore photo

    Melissa Pore (Computers/Engineering) – Mrs. Pore has been a K-12 technology teacher first in Texas but most recently in the Arlington Diocese. From 2009-2015 she was the computer teacher and STEAM coordinator at St. Thomas More, where she helped students successfully build and launch the first grade school satellite as part of the NASA CubeSat Initiative. She holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington and an M.Ed. from Texas Tech.
    FUN FACT – She holds an amateur radio technician license and has provided ground support for the International Space Station Amateur Radio at NASA (Md.).

    Rixon photo

    Geoffrey Rixon (Social Studies) – Mr. Rixon holds a B.A. in American Studies with a minor in theology from Fordham University and this fall he is completing his M.Ed. with a concentration secondary social studies at Marymount University. He got his start in the classroom in the Teach for America program, assigned as an ESL teacher for two years in Memphis, Tenn.
    FUN FACT – He grew up in the area and played ice hockey at Paul VI in Fairfax.

    Ruff photo

    Eric Ruff (Social Studies) – Mr. Ruff holds bachelor's degrees from the University of Missouri in political science and journalism and a master's in legislative affairs from George Washington University. He spent his early career on Capitol Hill in legislative and public affairs, media relations and communications. He rounded out his career in government as a special assistant and press secretary at the Department of Interior and the Department of Defense, before directing policy and communications in the corporate world. He is a career switcher who joined the O'Connell faculty last year as a long-term substitute teacher.
    FUN FACT – He grew up in an Air Force family and in high school and early college he played lead guitar in a band.

    Russo photo

    Frank Russo (Religion) – Mr. Russo comes to O'Connell from Brooklyn, N.Y., where he has been teaching middle and high school students in Catholic schools. For the past ten years, he has been a theology teacher at Fontbonne Hall Academy, where he also worked with the guitar club, yearbook and campus ministry committee. He holds a B.A. in psychology from St. John's University and an M.A. in theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y.
    FUN FACT - As a 5-year old boy, he accidently slid underneath the feet of Joe DiMaggio at a Yankees old-timers event. The Hall of Famer called him "safe."

    Sensabaugh photo

    Danielle Sensabaugh (Social Studies) – Ms. Sensabaugh was the long-term substitute teacher last fall for AP Art History and Honors Humanities. She has her B.A. in art history from West Virginia University and her M.A. in art history with a specialization in modern European art from American University. She recently completed a year-long internship at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
    FUN FACT - She has a cat named Cleocatra.

    Yockey photo

    Henry Yockey (Science) – Mr. Yockey is a 2013 graduate of Bishop O'Connell and a recent Virginia Tech graduate, where he received two degrees—a B.S. in physics and a B.S. in computational modeling and data analytics—while staying on the Dean's List.
    FUN FACT – He was treasurer of the student council his senior year at O'Connell.

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    Yesterday was a real joy. Greeting the Class of 2021 at the front door with Mr. Patton was wonderful -- something I look forward to every year and was blessed yesterday to experience for the tenth time since my arrival at O'Connell in 2008. In the faces of our arriving freshmen we saw excitement and trepidation; in those of the parents dropping off we saw pride and a little sense of the bittersweet.

    My own emotions included excitement at having arrived at this moment, pride and gratitude for the tireless efforts of the team at the school to prepare for this moment, and prayerful humility in reflecting on the school's responsibility to work with and for the parents and guardians of these young men and women.

    In the days leading up to yesterday's welcome, I had had the opportunity to speak first with all of our new teachers and their mentors, and then with our entire team. In my brief remarks, I asked our teachers, counselors and coaches to keep two things constantly in the forefront of their minds throughout the year:

    (1) the worth and dignity of every student they interact with over the course of the year (bearing in mind that the learning process will only be successful if students believe that educators care for them),

    (2) their responsibility as professional educators to ensure that our students are the beneficiaries of a rigorous, relevant and student-centered learning experience that is well-planned and delivered.

    While I have confidence that our team is locked on to these priorities, I wanted them to hear it from me and I want all of you to know I shared these thoughts with them.

    We were blessed on Tuesday of this week to join with the teachers and counselors of the entire Diocesan school system to celebrate Mass with the Bishop at All Saints Parish in Manassas. This recent tradition of our school system serves a powerful opportunity to be reminded of the importance of the vocation we share and the fact that we are not alone in our endeavors. Bishop Burbidge called upon Pope Francis's words on the subject of spiritual encounter to encourage all educators to "look up" to the Lord and to teach and encourage our students to do the same, particularly in times when there may seem to be more darkness (In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father writes, in part, "I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since 'no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.' The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk...")

    When I spoke to the freshman class for the first time yesterday, I asked them to consider those around them and the the ways that any worry or anxiety about the day might be impacting them. I asked them to consider how they might be the face of God for another through some simple random of act of kindness in the coming days. Certainly in saying this I was encouraging some thoughtfulness on their parts about the ways that they, the newest members of the O'Connell community, can be part of the best things about O'Connell and its traditions. During my ten years at our school, I have witnessed time and again the power of young people to bring light whenever darkness threatens. The bright faces of the Class of 2021 are poised to do more of the same.

    I shared with you briefly a few weeks ago our excitement about the superb team of new educators joining our team this year. I encourage you to learn a little more about them at THIS LINK.

    I look forward to seeing you all soon.

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    Carl Patton is the assistant head of school and the director of curriculum and instruction at Bishop O'Connell. Over the course of the last year, he has been engaging teams of faculty and administrators in a comprehensive curriculum audit.

    "This is a best practice that enables us to take a look at what is being done across disciplines, how and for what purpose," said Patton. "It opens up great conversations among the Catholic education professionals in the building about how learning is happening and it's steps and sequences."

    "There is no doubt that the educational landscape is always changing and these audits allow us to be deliberate in how we move forward," added Dr. Joseph Vorbach, Head of School. "Our school is committed to providing a rigorous, relevant and student-centered curriculum with intentional focus on how our students experience the Catholic mission of the school."

    Initial efforts earlier this year provided an articulation of a sequence of guiding principles for each grade level:

    9th Grade – Dignity of the Human Person

    10th Grade – The grace of being a Catholic community

    11th Grade – Using your faith as a guide

    12th Grade – Living your faith in the broader world

    "These themes ensure that we weave our Catholic identity in a systematic way," added Patton. "They build on each other and eventually prepare our students for life beyond O'Connell."

    Over the course of the upcoming school year, teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators will take part in collaborative working times by department, looking at ways to enrich, improve, and—and some cases, revise—the school's existing curriculum to fully integrate these guiding principles into each of the courses and units of study offered in all departments throughout the school.

    In the spring of the 2016-2017 school year, four teams of freshman teachers from different subject areas—English, history, science and religion—were the first cohort to begin to dig into the audit. They viewed the freshman curriculum using three basic questions:

    1) Why is this particular unit included in our curriculum?

    2) What are the specific skills that will be the focus of instruction for this unit?

    3) How can authentic student mastery of these skills be assessed? (Beyond rote memorization)

    Working with the support of the instructional coaches and literacy specialist in school's "igKnight" professional development program, the group discussed cross-curricular and interdepartmental idea-sharing and support initiatives. They also brainstormed the ways that the grade-level themes can be woven into each of the subject areas during the course of the year. In the end, each of the four teams delivered a full-year pacing guide for a newly enriched freshman curriculum—driven by 21st century research skills, student-centered classroom activities, and common essential questions that challenge students to speak directly to how each unit of study connects to the school's broader Catholic identity.

    As students return to O'Connell this fall, they may be unaware of the efforts that go on behind the scenes to ensure their success across all curriculum areas. Having leveraged best practices to get to this point, Patton is looking forward to sharing the experience and the outcomes with other Catholic educators at next annual NCEA Conference—scheduled to take place in Cincinnati next April—when he and English teacher and instructional coach John Meehan will be presenting a spotlight session on the subject of The Catholic School Advantage: Implementing Faith-Based Curriculum in Every Classroom at Every Level.

    Pictured below: Members of the igKnight professional development team, including Siobhan Dannaher, research coach and librarian; Sam Vulcano, social studies teacher and literacy coach; and John Meehan, instructional coach, work with Susanna Dawyot, a new English teacher.

    professional development

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    Diane Cerniglia at AP Conference

    English Department Chair and teacher of AP Literature, Mrs. Diane Cerniglia, was a presenter at the 2017 AP Conference held July 26-30 at the Washington Convention Center.

    Drawing on her 39 years of classroom experience, she shared various techniques and insights at her session entitled "Six Tried and True Methods for Teaching the Novel," which was attended by over 100 of her peers.

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  • 09/07/17--11:45: Party Like It's 1957
  • Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School first opened it's doors to students on Sep. 7, 1957. The school marked the 60th anniversary of that date with a morning Mass and a 1950s-themed lunch, complete with music, milk shakes, burgers, and of course, birthday cake. As a special treat, former faculty members joined us for the celebration!

    View photos of the Sep. 7 celebration below, or CLICK HERE if you can't see the slideshow.

    Find out more about our year-long 60th Anniversary celebration at

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    Yesterday we celebrated the school's 60th anniversary together. After Mass in the auditorium, we enjoyed the sock-hop themed lunch in the cafeteria where a display of photo albums and other memorabilia gave students a chance to appreciate the history of our school. Seeing pictures of the school when there was no auditorium, the current library was an outdoor courtyard known as the "bus port," and the faculty included more than 20 IHM Sisters and 20 De La Salle Christian Brothers helps students grow in their appreciation of a place and community with a rich history -- one of which they are now a part and to which they are now contributing, something larger than themselves.

    As part of a class assignment, the yearbook class was about the building this week capturing candid photographs. It was part of a scavenger hunt exercise designed by the teacher to emphasize the importance of good protocol for archiving material. When these students stopped to speak to me, I couldn't resist the opportunity to provide a micro-lecture of sorts on the importance of their work as the authors of the next chapter in the history of our school.

    Today as I write this, one of our buses is warming up outside my window. It is filling up with the classmates and teammates of senior Nate Smith, all of whom wish to support Nate and his family in their grief as they mourn the passing of Nate's mother, Tasha. When these students reflect back on their time as students at O'Connell, they will remember this day clearly. A moment when they recognized the powerful need to support another through their suffering -- a chance to be the face of God for a friend in need. A chance to feel the power of Faith and to share it together.

    Please pray for the Smith family and all in our community who are suffering pain or loss.

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    Coach FinnertyBishop O'Connell has named T.J. Finnerty as the new head coach for the girls lacrosse team. "Coach Finn" has been involved in area girls lacrosse for the last seven years, most recently at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, where he was the head coach for the J.V. team, as well as a varsity assistant coach and an off-season training coach. For the past two seasons, he has also served as the head coach of the Virginia United club gold team.

    "We are excited to announce the hiring of Coach Finnerty," said Joe Wootten, O'Connell athletic director. "He brings a lifetime of lacrosse experience and we are confident he will lead our program to great heights. What impressed me the most was his passion for the game and for teaching young people life skills through lacrosse. He will fit in perfectly with our mission-driven approach."

    Growing up in Upstate New York, Coach Finn played lacrosse from a young age. He was a four-year starter and captain at Washington & Lee University, where he was named First Team All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-American his senior year. He holds a B.S in accounting and was a senior financial executive before career switching into his current role as a high school business teacher at Robinson Secondary School. He and his wife Renee have three daughters and a son.

    There will be a meeting this Monday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. in the library for interested parents and players. Please come meet our newest head coach! Go Knights!

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    It was a great day to be a Knight, as the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, spent Monday at O'Connell. In addition to the celebration of the Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Bishop's day included multiple informal classroom visits, as well as opportunities to engage students in discussions throughout the building. He also took time to meet with the O'Connell freshman faculty team to learn more about their cross-curricular initiatives grounded in the school's Catholic identity.

    View a few photos from the day below or at

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  • 09/22/17--13:17: The Week in Review

    I hope you enjoyed Back to School night last Thursday. It is a special moment in the life of the school when the primary educators of children -- the parents and guardians -- get a slice of the daily student experience and a chance to get to know the teachers a bit. For teachers, it is an exciting opportunity to share their passion for their vocation, their enthusiasm for the work of the coming year, and a bit about the learning that will be taking place. Parents, with some assistance here and there, navigate our hallways and catch up with friends in between classes. The whole evening is a reminder of the importance of essential things: mission, community, rigor, challenge, growth, achievement.

    This past Monday, Bishop Burbidge spent the day with us, visiting with student and faculty groups and most importantly, celebrating Mass. When I spoke to you at Back-to-School Night, I emphasized our commitment to a rigorous, relevant and student-centered learning experience within which our Catholic identity is woven across the curriculum. We had a chance on Monday to share with Bishop Burbidge the work of our faculty to continuously enrich our curriculum toward those objectives and we were thrilled to get his endorsement of these efforts. Today after an early dismissal for our students, the faculty was engaged in an afternoon of collaborative work directed toward further strengthening of the curriculum.

    I cannot close this week's notes without thinking about the natural disasters around the world in recent weeks, which have left many in need. Whether along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Florida, on the Greater Antilles islands, in Sierra Leone, or in Mexico City -- there is grief, suffering, and sometimes hopelessness. Let us all continue to pray with hope. Toward that end, I offer this excerpt from a prayer offered after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and published on a resource page by Xavier University:

    Pierce, too, our hearts with compassion,
    we who watch from afar,
    as the poorest on this side of the earth
    find only misery upon misery.
    Move us to act swiftly this day,
    to give generously every day,
    to work for justice always,
    and to pray unceasingly for those without hope.

    We begin next week our annual hearty soup drive to support Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Through this effort last year, we were able to provide over 13,000 cans of hearty soup to Christ House and the St. Lucy Project. The drive will run for two weeks and culminate with the praying of the rosary on our athletic field on Friday, October 6 at 9:40 a.m. I thank you all in advance for helping our O'Connell Knights and the whole school community do as much as we can to relieve hunger and hopelessness right here in Northern Virginia.

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  • 09/17/17--07:00: Open House - Oct. 15
  • Seniors 2017OPEN HOUSE
    Sunday, Oct. 15, 1-4 PM

    Join us for our annual Open House! This is a great opportunity for you and your family to learn more about the Catholic high school experience at Bishop O'Connell.

    The program begins with a formal presentation in the auditorium at 1 p.m. This is followed by interactive classroom demonstrations until 4 p.m.

    • Tour our completely renovated science classrooms (biology, chemistry and physics labs)
    • Find out about our "Project Lead the Way" engineering curriculum.
    • Learn about our Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment partnership with Marymount University.
    • Hear more about our Global Studies Certificate Program.
    • Explore our college-prep curriculum, including our 28 AP subject areas.
    • Visit our chapel and the student lounge sponsored by Campus Ministry.
    • Get a hands-on appreciation for our BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology program and see our classroom tablet sets in action.
    • Learn about our Expanded Services for students with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
    • Find out more about our First Year Experience program and our comprehensive college counseling program.
    • Have a conversation with the staff of the Muller Academic Support Center.
    • See our arts program in action on stage and in our visual arts studio.
    • Come out to our sports fields and gym and feel the excitement of Knights athletics.
    • Explore our diverse clubs and activities available to all students.
    • Find out more about scholarships, tuition assistance and O'Connell bus transportation.
    • Meet our faculty, administration and coaches and chat with current students.

    Experience the O'Connell community first-hand, and find out why it's a GREAT day to be a KNIGHT!

    SAVE TIME! Download and fill out the Open House registration form before you arrive. Bring the form with you to OPEN HOUSE and return to the registration desk upon arrival.

    DOWNLOAD the registration form HERE.

    Questions? Contact or call 703-237-1433.

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  • 09/29/17--12:18: Ahh! The Bye Week!


    The bye week.

    It probably could not have come at a more opportune time for the Varsity Football Team, especially considering the Knights' disappointing 0-3 start to the 2017 campaign against three of the scholastic scene's heavyweights. And, to their credit, the O'Connell coaching staff made the most of it.

    Changes were implemented, both in personnel and tactile decisions. Responsibilities within the staff shifted, with the offensive coordinator and offensive line coaches switching roles – and, in doing so, making a change at the quarterback position and "simplifying things" on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line was shored up and a counter run play was added to the offensive arsenal. An emphasis on ball security was introduced into the first 10 minutes of practice daily for skill position players and linemen alike the past two weeks.

    Change was in the air.

    And, as it turns out, that was a good thing. Apparently, it was needed.

    The end result: a 42-6 thumping of rival Ireton on Saturday afternoon at BI.


    The Knights started fast – scoring on their first possession from scrimmage on a seam route that they had been working on the past two weeks. The team knew that they were opening the game with that play. The timing was perfect as quarterback Aidan McGowan (pictured right) hit Devin Morrow in stride with a strike, and Morrow went 59 yards untouched for the game's first score. Just as it was scripted!

    The emphasis on ball security paid dividends from the outset, as the upstart DJO contingent forced five turnovers over the course of four quarters. Most notably, wide receiver Bradley Magee recovered a fumble in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. He came from the opposite side of the field and sprinted into the end zone to record the recovery. That hustle and determination by Magee set the tone for the afternoon.

    The Knights came to play!

    It is said, practice makes perfect. Never was that more evident than when center Adam Johnson fell on a loose ball moments later after a BI interception was punched out by tight end Nate Smith. Recovery Johnson, Knights ball!

    The DJO defense created five turnovers and held the host Cardinals to 3-for-12 on third down efficiency.

    It was a great win for Coach Colin Disch and his chargers. "A great team win" as he is quick to inject, with multiple players asked to play two or three positions throughout the course of the game.


    Some individual highlights included senior Hakeem Clinton (pictured left) toting the pigskin 11 times for 180 rushing and two touchdowns; QB Aidan McGowan throwing for 180 yards and two TDs on 8-for-13 accuracy in his debut under center; Morrow and Magee each hauling in TD receptions; the trio of Jahmal Banks, Patrick Tessier and Jordon Wilson all making interceptions; and Kim Thompson making the move from QB to making plays on both sides of the ball at wide receiver (two receptions) and cornerback – filling in for the injured Nick Rice at a corner.

    Two observations: (1) the need to do a better job protecting the football and (2) a continued emphasis on tackling (which was much-improved), truly finishing tackles.

    It was nice to see that much of what the coaching staff and team implemented over the past two weeks came to fruition in a well-deserved victory for the Varsity Football Team.

    Ahh! The bye week. Gotta love it!

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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    Congratulations to nine Bishop O'Connell seniors who were named as Commended Students in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program:

    Tyler Dittmer
    Matthew Ehlers
    Julia Jones
    Gabriela Matheu
    Harrison McBride
    Caitlin Mea
    Selene Swanson
    Seth Viani
    Annemarie Wolf

    About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Although they will not continue in the 2018 competition for National Merit Scholarship awards, Commended Students placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.6 million students who entered the 2018 competition by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

    "The young men and women being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success," commented a spokesperson for NMSC. "These students represent a valuable resource; recognizing their accomplishments, as well as the key role their schools play in their academic development, is vital to the advancement of educational excellence in our nation. WE hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success."

    Photo below: the O'Connell Commended Students are joined by Mr. Carl Patton, assistant head of school (far left) and Sister Catherine Hill '66, IHM, dean of academics (left) and Dr. Joseph Vorbach '83, head of school (far right).

    National Merit Commended Students

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    Earlier this week, I attended the National Catholic Educational Association's annual Seton Awards dinner. The dinner recognizes significant contributions to Catholic education in the United States, both through long and distinguished service and pace-setting philanthropy. (You can learn more about the Seton Award winners HERE.) It is an inspiring evening that affirms all the good that is taking place in Catholic education around the country and how those efforts are being supported. It reminded me of all the selfless, humble, and generous giving of time, talent and treasure that I am witness to at Bishop O'Connell from faculty and staff, parents and alums. We are very blessed as we work to secure the next 60 years of our school's history.

    The end of the week finds me with other Heads of School and Principals from across the Diocese on a short retreat in Priestfield, W.V. being led by Father Thomas Ferguson. Father has framed his talks to us under the theme of "Living as Missionary Disciples" and he spent some time on the distinction between being a Disciple of Christ (a follower) and an Apostle (one who is sent forth).

    At the school, we seek to support parents and guardians as the primary educators of their children by encouraging the growth of students as disciples of Christ -- young men and women who develop a strong personal relationship with Christ that is sustained by prayer and the sacraments. This is done with the hope that they will become Apostles who through wisdom, courage and right judgment can be witnesses and leaders in their communities. Certainly the retreat was a reminder to all of us in attendance of our need for the same things we hope to strengthen in students and we have all been grateful for some time together to work on that.

    Back at Bishop O'Connell today, we are concluding our two week hearty soup drive to help stock the shelves at our diocesan Catholic Charities food pantries. This DJO tradition brings the entire student body together in the morning for a Living Rosary to pray for those who will ultimately benefit from the student's efforts. We are grateful for our generous community of parents and friends who help make this drive successful each year.

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  • 10/06/17--06:57: Winless No More


    Winless no more!

    As history illustrates, wins have been hard to come by for the O'Connell field hockey program. And this year is no exception. Especially this year, where inconsistency has plagued the Knights game in and game out.

    But Monday was different. For whatever reason, very, very different. O'Connell came to play. And play they did – dominating the action during various stretches throughout the game. Never has the team looked better! And against a formidable foe: St. Mary's Ryken. Yes, that St. Mary's Ryken of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

    The end result: a 2-1 double-overtime, sudden-death victory over Ryken.

    An amazing result and accomplishment for Coach Eighmey Zeeck's squad. Much of the game, their play was flawless. The DJO girls excelled! It was O'Connell's first-ever win over St. Mary's Ryken. That's right, first-ever win over Ryken.

    And to do so, as they did, was awesome. Double OT, sudden death! Pretty amazing! And, as the score would suggest, extremely exciting.

    Junior goalkeeper Skye Hartsoe played a large role in keeping Ryken at bay through the first 30 minutes with some terrific saves and directing the defense as the two teams battled to a scoreless deadlock in the first half.

    Nine minutes into the second half, opportunity knocked and Ryken capitalized. It was disheartening, especially considering the DJO girls had controlled the action much of the half and, for that matter, most of the game. Past teams would have caved in at that point, feeling sorry for themselves or accepting defeat for what it was.... just another loss.

    This year's O'Connell contingent did not. Something was different. A belief not evident in recent years past took hold. If anything, it almost seemed as if Ryken's tally energized Coach Zeeck's charges. Once again, the home-standing Knights were on the attack. At the 24-minute mark exactly, Aubrey Donohue (pictured above) knotted the score at 1-1 with a goal. Celebration erupted on the O'Connell sidelines, while concern surfaced on the Ryken bench.

    Perhaps it was the words of Donohue following the Ryken goal: "Guys, let's not start playing bad just because they scored. We are better than them, and we are getting to the balls first. We got this! Let's keep up the intensity and communication."

    "We got this!" Gotta love it! "We got this!"


    Indeed, O'Connell was not going away! A rejuvenated DJO squad found new life, while Ryken increased the pressure. "Ole mo" had taken a turn, and a determined Ryken contingent turned up the intensity. But O'Connell was not going away! They had come to play on this day.

    Regulation play concluded with the two teams battling to a 1-1 standoff.

    A 10-minute, sudden-death overtime ensued. OT proved quite interesting, with each team fielding only six players and a goalie by WCAC rules (as opposed to ten players and a goalie). The horn sounded after ten minutes, and the score was still deadlocked at 1-all.

    Coach Zeeck had decided to stack the field with her top offensive and defensive performers, all upperclassmen: Kirsten Knauf, Caroline Young (pictured above), Olivia Pope (pictured below), Camille Seldin, Laura Putnam and Donohue with Hartsoe in goal. And, in doing so, elected to change her team's strategy – becoming more offensive-minded. She instructed her defense to hold tough along the 50-yard-line, and if an offensive corner was called in the DJO girls' favor, everyone needed to be on the 16 in order to increase their scoring opportunities. She also employed a little psychological strategy, singling out Seldin – reminding the defender that she always wanted to score, so now was her opportunity. As fate would have it, Seldin delivered as her teammates and coaches mobbed her in celebration.


    The perfect ending to an outstanding game.

    And, on another note, just my perspective and observations as a fan along the sidelines taking in the action.

    Looking back on Monday's victory, Skye Hartsoe was outstanding in goal throughout the entire game. It is as good as I have seen her play. Kirsten Knauf was steady and, as always, impressive in her play and decision-making. Notable also was Olivia Pope's aggression, attacking the goal at every opportune time.... ditto for the fight and scrappiness of Caroline Young in the midfield. And I may be saving the best for last here... #8, Aubrey Donohue, should now be on everyone's radar. She possesses amazing talent and an undeniable desire to win. "We got this!"

    I am really liking what I witnessed on Monday. Some more outings like that, and O'Connell will be looked upon more favorably by the rest of the WCAC. Congratulations, ladies, this was a well-deserved triumph!

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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  • 09/16/17--08:00: Music is in the Air
  • Our music programs are in full swing,
    and now's the time to mark your calendar for two upcoming concerts you won't want to miss!

    Fall Pops Concert
    Featuring our String Orchestra, Jazz Band, Symphonic Band and Concert Band
    Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.

    One Voice - A Concert to Heal, Inspire and Encourage Unity
    Featuring our O'Connell Singers, Men's Chorus, Women's Chorus and A Cappella groups
    Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.

    Both events are held in the school auditorium and admission is FREE. Bring the family!

    Music program photos

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    This morning, through the efforts of our counseling team, along with our Chaplain, Fr. Thompson, and faculty and student leaders, we held an assembly focused on RESPECT. Students offered examples of how to strengthen a culture of respect in our community and beyond. Through prayer, reflection and Eucharistic adoration, we endeavored to take to heart the challenges to be models of respect for others, particularly in challenging times. I share with you here my remarks at the outset of the assembly.

    Good Morning Everyone,

    I am glad to have a moment to speak with you at the outset of this assembly focused on respect.

    At this moment in history, when natural disasters remind us of the need to extend our hands in service, generosity and love to those impacted.

    And when the violent acts of deranged individuals challenge us to smother evil with love.

    And when the public discourse, amplified in a social media environment, feels at times to have become more mean-spirited, sarcastic, and at times even hostile.

    It is appropriate that we pause and recognize a fundamental starting point for answering the question: "What can I do?"

    That starting point is an acknowledgment of the fundamental worth and dignity of every human person.

    How will others know they have worth and dignity? – By how we treat them...and they will know we are Christians by our love...

    What does it mean to be the face of God to another?

    What does this mean for us in the daily work-and-school sense?

    How do we lift others up?

    How well do we listen to what others are saying?

    How do we put the needs of others before our own?

    Do we subordinate our own wishes and desires to the needs of others?

    Do we suppress our ego and seek to serve others with humility?

    And where do we find the strength to do this? (because we know it is not always easy)

    Do we do as our Bishop Burbidge has suggested and "Look Up" to the prayer...

    "God give me patience..."

    "God give me fortitude to persevere in what is hard"

    "God, guide me...I want to help, but I am scared..."

    "God forgive me try again and do better"

    We are a community, a community of Faith and hope and we can be part of the light that casts out the darkness. Let us use this time of meditation and prayer this morning to remember this potential in us and to resolve to use at every opportunity.

    Thank you.

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    VMEA Honors

    Congratulations to O'Connell seniors Peter Lucas and Vasili Varfis who were named to the 2017 Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Honors Choir.

    This past weekend, Peter and Vasili, along with high school seniors from throughout Virginia traveled to Longwood University to take part in the VMEA auditions. They performed Henry Purcell's If Music Be the Food of Love for a panel of collegiate music adjudicators. Following their solo performances, they were asked to sing a short musical excerpt by sight with no previous rehearsal.

    "The VMEA audition is highly competitive and prepares dedicated music students for auditions with universities and other artistic organizations," said O'Connell's choral director Peter Kadeli. "This is quite an honor for Peter and Vasili and for our school's music programs."

    Both young men have participated in the Bishop O'Connell choral program for the past four years. "They are passionate about music, especially singing," added Kadeli.

    Peter and Vasili are two of only 15 Bass 1 voices statewide who will be performing at the VMEA Honors Choir Festival at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va. on Nov. 18.

    For more information on Bishop O'Connell music program, visit

    For more information on the Virginia Music Educators Association,, visit

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