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For Walker SVHS excellence was ‘fun’


It wasn’t only the graduating students who moved on from St. Vincent de Paul High School this spring. Also leaving is school principal Dr. John Walker, who takes with him many fond memories and a legacy of success that includes playing an integral part in making the school one of the most prestigious academic schools in the area and helping build out the campus with the addition of a new gymnasium, new playing fields and a new amphitheater.

Walker’s departure is part of a administrative reorganization that affects both the St. Vincent high and elementary school.

Through all the accomplishments and successes, the one thought that stands out above all for Walker is, “It was fun on so many levels. The students made it fun on a daily basis. They are so creative and exciting.

“They are grown up in so many ways and so accomplished, but they are still teenagers throwing water balloons in the hallway.”

Walker said. It is because he and the rest of the staff at St. Vincent recognize the individuality of each student and work with each to develop their skills that St. Vincent students have been so successful and the school has built such an outstanding reputation.

“The students get close, personal attention,” he explained. “We know what they are going through and can channel their education to meet their personal needs.”

Walker has 31 years experience in school administration, the last 13 as St. Vincent principal. “It is the longest I’ve ever been at one place,” he noted.

During his time at St. Vincent, he has seen many changes at the school.

Among the many advancements he has helped accomplish are the installation of the synthetic field used by multiple sports teams as well as PE classes; building of an outdoor amphitheater; purchase of a badly needed one-acre of campus-connected property; a new field house; renovation of the chemistry laboratory with grant funding; renovation of the library with grant funding; renovation of the computer laboratory with grant funding; installation of interactive white boards in all classrooms; installation of campus-wide Wi-Fi; installation of digital lockers and the addition of a girls lacrosse team.

In the classroom during Walker’s tenure, curriculum was expanded in all disciplines, the St. Vincent debate team rose to national prominence; A donor-funded special education program was added; an international student program was initiated; block scheduling and a tutorial period were instituted; an all-school service day was added; senior service programs were expanded and the journalism class expanded to on-line and digital platforms.

As a background to the changes at St. Vincent, the very basics of how education is delivered is changing, according to Walker.

“Classrooms used to be focused on the teacher,” he explains. “Today they are much more de-centralized. Now they are focused on the students who are teaching one another. Students ability to focus on a subject for prolonged periods of time has been eroded, but at the same time students have a greater ability to multi-task and shift gears.”

He said that means teachers also have to change. “They have to be more flexible,” he explained. “ They can’t just lecture for 90 minutes.”

He said the changes are not only inevitable, but necessary. “Schools have to change,” he maintained. “If they don’t change, they are doing something wrong.”

Walker said St. Vincent has met the challenge of change and continued to offer a consistently outstanding education. “The results have been amazing,” he said. “The main reasons for St. Vincent success have been the strength of our traditions and the support of the community.”

Like many parochial and other private schools, St. Vincent has seen a decline in enrollment over the past several years.

“We have done a lot of things to deal with the challenges (of declining enrollment),” Walker said. “But we have to do more. We have to expand our market.”

Walker said at the same time, the school needs to continue to receive support from what he called “an incredible alumni,” and others in the community.

“Our tuition doesn’t even cover our operating expenses,” he pointed out. “We need community support.”

It is support St. Vincent has been receiving for 100 years and Walker said he is certain it will continue.

But it will continue without him at the helm as he moves to what he calls his next “adventure.

“Anything is possible, but it is likely to be in education,” he said.

He takes with him many fond memories.

“It has been exciting watching the students change and mature,” he said. “It is great watching the students graduate from here and then come back as successful adults.

“It has been fun.”