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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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  • 08/03/18--13:06: Continuous Improvement

    Shortly after our students departed in June, Bishop O'Connell played host, for the second year in a row, to the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute.  The hallmarks of this program include significant parent presence and involvement as the young musicians develop their skills.  While they are here at DJO, there is a family atmosphere and we enjoy listening to the music as well as watching the families take their lunches together on our front lawn.

    As I write to you now, the last hours of our last summer camps are coming to a close and our fall student athletes are getting ready to go.  I have enjoyed looking out my window to the north and watching eight year olds try out their crossover dribbles on each other during scrimmages.  I'm jealous!  I wouldn't mind a week long camp of just basketball -- my body would mind, but it sounds like a fun idea.

    So we began with violins and ended bouncing balls and squeaking sneakers -- all signs of active learning and we want to be a place where a lot of that happens.

    To get ready for next year and well into the future, we started right away in June on a host of projects focused on serving our students better -- with technology, with STEM education, with testing support, with studio arts, with expanded services and with athletics to name a few.  And we tackled some environmental challenges with HVAC system repairs and upgrades.  Among the things that will be most noticeable when you return to campus are the new engineering and expanded services classrooms on the second floor of the Underwood wing, the beautifully redone floor in the gymnasium, and, most of all, the fact that the original convent has been demolished.  All of these things are signs of our commitment to continuous improvement in the near term and beyond, and I share just a few photos below.

    At the same time, we have been both rounding out our team of education professionals and completing some planned reorganization designed to help us serve students and families even more effectively.  We look forward to sharing more about our team and structure in the coming weeks.

    With prayers that you continue to enjoy a safe and happy summer.



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  • 08/17/18--11:48: A Not So Mundane Exercise

    Yesterday was one of those days when Mrs. Quinn in our business office brought me a pile of checks to sign. It occurred to me as I was signing them that there was an opportunity to make some observations about how we accomplish our mission by talking about what I see when I sign checks.

    The first thing is perhaps the most obvious; it costs a lot of money to keep our school running and the outflowing dollars add up in interesting ways -- a contractor to repair a mechanical issue, furniture for a renovated classroom, upgrading digital technology, supplies for biology lab or the art classrooms, paying for the location of the senior retreats, the costs of printed material for alumni events...and so on.

    The second observation is related to the first; we must be good stewards of the precious resources we have that allow us to continue to operate Bishop O'Connell.  It is a humbling responsibility and it makes me think of the sacrifices made throughout our community.  Sometimes in signing checks, you pick up on a cost that reveals a persistent problem -- like paying for the same repair for the second time in a short period of time.  We can ask questions about why the repair is needed.

    Signing the checks also keeps me in touch with the variety of activities going on around the school.  I might sign a check that pays a registration fee for a Model UN team, a speech and debate competition, or a wrestling tournament.  When I do, it makes me think of the moderators and coaches who have done the planning and preparation to ensure that students will have these experiences.  

    Some checks are related to getting clothing items for athletic boosters, food for the concession stand, items for our gala, or to pay a down payment on the music trip.  When I sign these, I am conscious of the countless hours of volunteer time that parents give to help make the high school experience unique and special and memorable for our students.

    So, the check signing exercise -- a seemingly mundane activity -- is an important way of staying tuned in as a leader.  Signing a lot of them ten days before the school year starts was a good centering exercise -- a reminder about the importance of staying focused on the mission, of shepherding our resources judiciously, of proceeding each day in grateful humility for the sacrifices being made so that it can always be "A Great Day to be a Knight!"

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    Play Like a Champion's Nan Tulchinsky Athletic Leadership Award given to Bishop O'Connell High School and student-athlete Maggie McDonough

    Patton accepts awardThe Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series presented both Bishop O'Connell High School and student-athlete Maggie McDonough '19 with the Nan Tulchinsky Athletic Leadership Award. For five decades, Nan Tulchinsky has served the South Bend Community as a teacher, coach, athletic director and volunteer mentor. This award is given annually to a person or organization that models her example of character, passion, integrity, service, leadership and love for all children.

    The 2018 award was presented during a Friday evening banquet dinner at the 2018 Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership Conference, held June 22-23, 2018 at the University of Notre Dame. McDonough was a speaker at the event, presenting as part of a high school coach and administrator discussion session on leadership. Bishop O'Connell High School has been a blue-ribbon partner of Play Like a Champion, annually training coaches, parents and student-athletes in the Play Like a Champion philosophy.

    A rising senior at Bishop O'Connell High School, McDonough is the founder of the school's CHAMPS club. Standing for Character, Honor and Morality in Play by Student-Athletes, CHAMPS is comprised of a group of student-athletes who meet regularly to participate in faith-sharing and faith-formation centered around athletics. An accomplished student-athlete at the Arlington, Va. school, McDonough has worked tirelessly to build the program in her school.

    "Maggie is a young woman of character with a strong faith in Christ," said Kristin Sheehan, Program Director for the Play Like a Champion Today Educational Series. "A true servant leader to her classmates, school and community, she inspires us to build the Kingdom of God and make the world around us a better place."

    Bishop O'Connell's award was accepted by Mr. Carl Patton, the school's Assistant Head of School and Director of Instruction and Curriculum. Said Sheehan "Bishop O'Connell's deep commitment to mission integration through all elements of the educational process reveals a dedication to educating the whole student in mind, body and spirit. All schools can find inspiration in their dedication to developing our youth."

    Pictured below: McDonough receives her Award from Program Director Kristin Sheehan (left) and the award's
    namesake Nan Tulchinsky (center).


    McDonough award


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    WillemssenBishop O'Connell has named Suzy Willemssen as the head coach of the Knights softball program.

    Coach Willemssen was a four sport athlete in high school in Waterloo, Iowa, before playing Division I softball at the University of Iowa. She has been coaching club and travel softball in Virginia for nearly 20 years, founding and coaching for the Glory Fastpitch Softball organization.

    She has coaching experience at both public and private area high schools since 2002. Most recently she served as the varsity softball head coach at Lee High School in Springfield, earning Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2015 and 2017. She also has coached at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Chantilly High School and West Springfield High School.

    "We are extremely fortunate to have Coach Willemssen lead our softball program into a new era," said Athletic Director Joe Wootten. "She brings her solid experience and knowledge of the game to our program, and her philosophy on student-athlete development parallels our school's mission of fostering the pursuit of excellence in the whole person."

    The athletics office will be hosting a meet and greet with Coach Willemssen on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 6 PM in the school library. All interested softball players and parents are invited to attend. If you have any questions, or cannot attend the meeting, contact Coach Willemssen at 

    Read more:

    O'Connell hires new softball Coach, Inside NOVA, Aug. 14, 2018
    O'Connell coach up to the challenge, Inside NOVA, Aug. 21, 2018

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  • 08/24/18--13:38: Almost There...

    We are less than 72 hours out from welcoming the Class of 2022 through the doors on Monday morning.  We are really looking forward to that moment, something that has been abundantly clear throughout this week of teacher preparation.  There is a great energy in the building and it was on display yesterday in particular when we broke up into teams and entered into learning competitions with one another using pedagogy that will be part of the freshman orientation next week.  The joy of learning is a real thing and it is contagious. Yesterday, we shared a lot of important information about the beginning of the school year while learning more about ourselves and our teaching colleagues.  The whole day was an affirmation of our collective commitment to our Catholic mission and an energy-filled build-up to the opening of the school year.  We can't wait to  share the energy with students next week.

    When the summer began, I shared with you that one of the exciting things about the arrival of summer each year was the chance to tackle major school improvements.  We certainly did that this summer (and we're still finishing up).  My colleague Rob Horan mounted a time lapse camera for us on the roof of the school earlier this summer so that we could capture the convent demolition. While we still have some work to do on the demolition project (something that has been slowed by the discovery of unforeseen conditions that require extra caution when working close to the Trinidad wing of the school), the short video below (or at this LINK) gives you a glimpse of what has been accomplished.

    Looking forward to seeing as many folks as possible at our first football game tomorrow.  Especially looking forward to welcoming our new families to the cookout beforehand.


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    Freshman OrientationWhen teachers and students returned to Bishop O’Connell in late August, they were treated to an orientation experience that included flying paper airplanes, building towers with spaghetti, and working with LEGO bricks and Mr. Potato Head. This was more than just ice-breakers; it was the work of the school’s igKnight professional development team working with teachers to help students feel engaged, empowered and excited about learning.

    “Drawing from educational reform research dating all the way back to 19th-century pioneers like Benjamin Bloom, John Dewey and Maria Montessori, we know that students learn best from the classes where they feel most actively engaged,” said English teacher and instructional coach John Meehan. “Our goal as teachers is to help get students really excited about the activities that they do in our classrooms in order to inspire deep learning through creativity and choice.”

    Read more in the August 30 edition of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

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  • 08/31/18--13:36: New Fine Arts Faculty
  • The Fine Arts Department is pleased to announce that three new faculty members have joined the department this year. 

    Kelsey Walsh- Art Teacher
    WalshMs. Walsh received her Bachelors of Art in Studio Art from Albright College in Reading, PA. During her time at Albright she focused on her studio practice and was active in the Freedman Gallery. After Albright, Ms. Walsh interned with the Youth and Family Programs at the National Portrait Gallery. Ms. Walsh then went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in Community Art from Maryland Institute College of Art. While at MICA, she served as the Artist in Residence with AmeriCorps Community Art Collaborative at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts. During that time, she collaboratively created two murals; one in memoriam to Augusta Fells Savage and the second, a youthled urban nature mural with the summer YouthWorks program. Her thesis led her to partner with a local Baltimore Hospital, Sinai Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, in creating accessible art programming for patients/residents in long-term care and short-term behavioral health settings. After graduate school, Ms. Walsh taught in Baltimore City for three years as an art educator and the Director of Extended Day programming. During that time she partnered with various organizations to serve the local school community. One project included Clarke Construction and the Maryland Transit Authority to create Mural panels along a construction site to aide in the transition and education on the MTA. Another humbling project was with the new Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. The students donated their time and creativity to create a cheerful installation to be permanently housed in the RMH community room for the residents and families. Ms. Walsh enjoys utilizing art as a tool to connect and empower voices for positive change.

    Kyra Klontz – Choral Director
    KlontzMs. Klontz is thrilled to be the choral director at Bishop O'Connell High School.  She is a native of Arlington and is excited to be back in the area. Ms. Klontz holds a Bachelor of Music in choral music education and vocal performance, as well as a double minor in special education and musical theatre from Miami University in Oxford, OH.  She graduated summa cum laude with honors in December of 2017 and was recently awarded the "Outstanding Future Music Educator" honor for her graduating class.  While at Miami, Ms. Klontz was extremely active in Best Buddies, becoming president and director of an inclusive choir on her campus, that integrated adults with and without disabilities.  In addition, she participated in the MU Opera program each year, served as an undergraduate assistant and a student manager at the recreational center, and held leadership positions in two choral ensembles.  Ms. Klontz was selected to be student conductor of the MU Chamber Singers her senior year, and went on to student teach at Mason High School and Maple Dale Elementary in Cincinnati, OH.  After completing her student teaching, Ms. Klontz was most recently a long-term substitute in Arlington Public Schools, working as a choral director at Yorktown High School, Williamsburg Middle School, and Randolph Elementary School. Ms. Klontz helped prepare students for theDistrict XII Assessment, where they received only superior or excellent ratings.  She is active in the choral community, coming from a family of professional musicians and music educators.  Additionally, Ms. Klontz teaches private voice lessons and also enjoys work as a part-time group fitness instructor.

    Timothy Lacrosse – Strings Director
    LaCrosseMr. Lacrosse holds his Bachelor of Music degree in viola performance from the Juilliard School. He spent a year at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London studying orchestral training before obtaining his Master of Music from the Yale School of Music. He previously served as principal violist of the National Symphony of Panama, as well as section positions in the Huntsville Symphony, the Hawaii Symphony, and Fairfax Symphony, among others. He has performed in many of the world's prestigious  concert halls and festivals around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, Ravinia Festival, Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), Barbican Center and Aldeburgh Festival in England, Lucerne Concert Hall (Switzerland), Gasteig Cultural Center and Konzerthaus Berlin in Germany, Auditorium Parco della Musica in Italy, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. An avid educator, Mr. Lacrosse maintains a private studio of violin and viola students and has prepared students for auditions to the National Symphony Orchestra Youth Fellowship Program and American Youth Philharmonic, both of which he is an alumna.  He recently held the post of visiting professor of viola at the University of Panama, a position he held for four years. Recognizing the importance of arts education in public and private schools, he also performs and provides sectionals in Washington DC, Arlington and Fairfax County schools. 

    This is an exciting time for the department and we look forward to welcoming Ms. Klontz, Ms. Walsh, and Mr. Lacrosse into the Bishop O'Connell community! If you have any questions, please contact Mrs. Maria McDonald, Fine Arts Department Chair, at


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    What a great start to the school year we had this week! The first three days with freshmen gave us a chance to get to know them and them the opportunity to get more comfortable with us, the building, and their schedules.  I reminded them this week that they should not underestimate their capacity to exercise leadership, individually and collectively, right from the beginning of their high school careers at Bishop O'Connell.  They are a bright and energetic group and we look forward to helping them discover what God has in store for them.

    Yesterday, we enjoyed welcoming the entire student body back. Those who have been around the school the past decade have probably already heard me make this observation, but it bears repeating -- there comes a time, around the second week in August, when we all realize that it is time to get the students back in the building.  Even as we lament that we don't have just a little more time to finish making improvements, and even as we fret about the fact that certain key deliveries have not been received, we know it is time to use the school for its intended purpose.

    And when the students arrive, they are so glad to see each other, and even to see us!  They are enlivened by a sense of the possible as the year begins and we draw great energy from them.  There is a sense of renewal, of new beginnings and great possibilities.  In our preparations before their arrival, we have been planning the best ways to encourage and sustain that energy with creative, focused and engaging learning opportunities.

    All of us are compelled to acknowledge that it is a marathon, not a sprint that just started.  Still, the adrenaline and energy we feel at the beginning is not artificial and we are challenged to make the most of it.  It is an important component of an undertaking that we pray will conclude in June with each student looking back with pride and saying they set a good pace and achieved their personal best.

    I encourage you to take a look at two links below. The first is a collection of photos from our freshman welcome (starting with the New Family Cookout and continuing through their first three days of school). The second is a link that will introduce you to the fantastic new members of our team this year.

    Freshman First Days

    Meet Our Newest Faculty Members

    Wishing all families a blessed Labor Day weekend.  We remember and pray for all whose labors make our lives easier.  May I ask you to pray for all of the employees on the C&W Services team at Bishop O'Connell.  They have worked tirelessly throughout the summer to prepare for this week and we are grateful for their efforts.

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    What a blur of a short week it has been after the Labor Day holiday.  The school year is new enough that we are still experiencing "firsts" as a community--like our first school Mass together yesterday.  It is new enough, too, that some furniture was still being delivered earlier this week and air conditioning repair teams have been up on the roof addressing those parts of our system that have responded less than optimally to our recent heat wave.

    The constant has been awesome energy from our students and teachers. Before Mass yesterday, I asked everyone to participate in an exercise to prove the point that, even if we are not all trained singers, we can collectively "shout with joy to the Lord...break into song...sing praise."  With the help our awesome praise band and the leadership of the seniors, a nice "tone" was set, one that we look forward to carrying over to Bishop Burbidge's visit next week and throughout the year.

    The week closed for me with the opportunity to spend 30 minutes with the Student Council Executive Board.  This is a motivated group that has embraced its leadership role in the school and is looking forward to many successes throughout the year, beginning with tonight's back-to-school dance.

    Just as we have enjoyed welcoming students back into the building, we look forward to the opportunity to have all parents and guardians in for Back-to-School night on Wednesday, Sept. 19.  This will be a great opportunity for all of you to meet and hear from your students' teachers.

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    Bishop Burbidge came to school today for a pastoral visit that included the celebration of Mass on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Bishop’s homily focuses on the capacity of Christ’s love to ease the burden of the crosses we are carrying. He encouraged students of the opportunity to visit our chapel for a moment of peace and the opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit to “make us wise” as we confront difficult challenges and decisions.

    The bulk of Bishop’s time with us was spent with students in various settings, and we are very grateful for his continued interest in our efforts at O'Connell.

    Please enjoy a brief slideshow capturing moments from our Bishop’s visit below or at this link: