Kevin C. Chick is finishing his first month on the job as principal of Saint Columba Catholic School, only the second lay principal in the schools 128-year history. He is stepping into a position that was held by Sister Edith Hauser for 27 years.
There is a big difference between clergy-run and laity-run, Chick, 37, said. St. Columba was a bit of a little island under Sister Edith. I chose St. Columba because it is a parish school with direct oversight for the school by the priest.
Chick is a relatively new Roman Catholic.
My wife and I had been searching for a faith community, he said, when one night at a barbecue, we looked at our friends and said, Catholic, Catholic, Lutheran, Catholic, Catholic, Lutheran. We looked at each other and said, Catholic.
Not 10 minutes later, the brother of a friend approached Chick, who had a teaching certificate but was working at a brokerage firm, and asked him if hed be interested in teaching social studies at St. Josephs Catholic School, a private Catholic school in Missoula, Mont.
He asked me if I was Catholic, Chick said, and I said, funny you should ask My wife and I just decided 10 minutes ago to become Catholic.
Chick was given approval to teach at the school by the bishop and was confirmed that Easter.
I dont consider myself a Johnny-come-lately, he said. My parents werent churchgoers but taught ethics and morals. And coaches, teachers, other adults all had an impact.
Chick grew up in Renton, Wash., but said he always knew he wanted to live in the Rocky Mountain West. He attended the University of Montana and majored in history and political science.
We had three principal turnovers in two years, Chick said of his experience at St. Josephs. So I went back to school at night to earn a masters in educational leadership and become a licensed administrator.
Over the next few years, Chick served as dean of activities, vice principal, dean of the middle school and dean of students. He said he loves being a Catholic educator.
Were able to take a holistic approach to children, he said. Academic preparedness is just part of it. We teach faith in Christ that gives confidence and stability, restorative lessons and discipline.
Chick makes it clear that he doesnt want to disparage public education because he thinks there are a number of things it does really well.
The biggest difference is we can use the word love, he said. We can have conversations that are deeper, that youre not in the principals office because youre in trouble, youre here because we love you, we care about you.
Chick already has made a change. The new school schedule will mimic Durango School District 9-Rs starting and ending dates and major vacations such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. School also will start earlier, at 8 a.m., and end earlier, at 3 p.m.
Im going to be spending a great deal of time on the middle school, Chick said. It needs some time and attention. We have some incredibly qualified and passionate teachers.
The first change this year in St. Columbas middle school grades sixth through eighth is that they will model the scheduling patterns on Escalante and Miller middle schools, with students changing classrooms for different subjects.
Its such an interesting transition time for students, Chick said.