McCort Search for Principal Moving Ahead

By Kelly Urban
The Tribune-Democrat
October 19, 2013

JOHNSTOWN — The search for a new principal at Bishop McCort Catholic High School continues.

Ken Salem, the school’s former principal, was placed on administrative leave without explanation March 1 by McCort’s Board of Trustees after claims surfaced by former students that they had been molested by Brother Stephen Baker.

Baker was of the Franciscan order and worked at McCort from the early 1990s through the early 2000s as a religion teacher and in the athletic department.

Baker committed suicide

Jan. 26. At the time, he was living at St. Bernardine Monastery near Hollidaysburg.

In June, Salem issued a statement that he had decided to “voluntarily separate from Bishop McCort” to pursue other opportunities.

Salem was replaced by former Assistant Principal D.A. Gardill, who agreed to stay on as interim principal until a new principal could be appointed.

Matt Beynon, spokesman for the school, said the search is moving forward smoothly and as planned.

“Earlier this fall, Bishop McCort held four separate community input meetings which the board of trustees used to gather information from the community and the board is currently accepting applications for the position,” he said.

Although three input meetings were originally scheduled, a fourth was added due to increased interest.

“The board was happy with the input they received and were happy to add a fourth meeting,” Beynon said. “They are committed to moving forward and making sure the community understands what is going on.”

The deadline for applications is Friday.

Beynon said he is unsure how many applications have already come in, but said consultants handing the search are pleased with the number.

“This has been a nationwide search and they cast a wide net in order to find the right person,” he said.

There hasn’t been a date set as to when the new principal will start, but the plan is to have someone in place as soon as possible.

“It’s more about finding the right candidate than filling the position right now,” Beynon said.

But despite the controversy that has surrounded McCort, the school itself has felt little impact.

Beynon said enrollment numbers are strong, with

403 students enrolled for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Last year was just over

400, so they are right on par and that’s a really good thing for the school,” he said.

He added that although numbers for incoming freshmen were lower than average, that may have been because parochial schools that feed into McCort had a smaller number of eighth-graders.

“There were 29 transfer

students into McCort this school year and that helped to make up for that loss,” Beynon said.



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