Returning to her roots

Former prin­cip­al and pres­id­ent of St. Hubert, Joanne Walls is now back with the Bam­bies.  

The dream team: (From left to right) St. Hubert As­sist­ant Prin­cip­al Rose M. Sci­oli, Prin­cip­al Dr. Joanne H. Walls and Pres­id­ent Mr. Fran­cis A. Far­rell walk the hall­ways of St. Hubert. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

When St. Hubert High School an­nounced in early June that Joanne Walls would be re­turn­ing after a 17-year ab­sence, the re­ac­tion on Face­book was swift and pos­it­ive.

Walls served as prin­cip­al from 1988-94 and pres­id­ent from 1994-96. Now, she’s back as prin­cip­al, re­pla­cing Re­gina Craig, who took a job as dir­ect­or of cur­riculum at a charter school.

“St. Hubert is mov­ing for­ward, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I’m ex­cited about be­ing back.”

Walls cited St. Hubert’s aca­dem­ic stand­ards as a lure, but be­lieves there is much more, per­haps be­cause the school was sched­uled to close in 2012 be­fore win­ning new life. She was part of the team that ap­pealed the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia’s de­cision.

“It’s the same build­ing, but dif­fer­ent stu­dents and dif­fer­ent en­ergy,” she said. “It’s very vi­brant.”

Frank Far­rell re­turns for his second year as pres­id­ent of the school, at Tor­res­dale and Cottman av­en­ues.

The rest of the lead­er­ship team con­sists of Rose Sci­oli, as­sist­ant prin­cip­al for pu­pil per­son­nel, and Christina Mul­ligan, as­sist­ant prin­cip­al for stu­dent af­fairs.

“I love the team,” Far­rell said. “I’m really ex­cited.”

Sci­oli is a Bustleton nat­ive who at­ten­ded Ma­ter­nity BVM Ele­ment­ary School and Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School. Her teach­ing ca­reer has taken her to Ry­an, St. Hubert, Arch­bish­op Car­roll, Kennedy-Ken­rick, Ro­man Cath­ol­ic and Con­well-Egan.

“Then back here,” she said. “I’m a product of the sys­tem. I was born, bred and raised in the Cath­ol­ic school sys­tem.”

Sci­oli’s dad, John, taught for 40 years, mostly at Ry­an. She star­ted on Ju­ly 15 and will handle aca­dem­ic and dis­cip­line is­sues. She be­lieves all stu­dents will be able to find a niche in one of the school’s many ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies, which range from sew­ing to ro­bot­ics.

At present, she is in the doc­tor­al pro­gram at Temple Uni­versity, pre­par­ing a thes­is on single-sex edu­ca­tion. She taught Eng­lish at St. Hubert for four years, leav­ing a dec­ade ago, and was saddened to hear that the school might close.

“We’re edu­cat­ing wo­men of in­teg­rity,” she said. “There’s something spe­cial here. St. Hubert’s has al­ways been close to my heart. There’s an en­ergy, en­thu­si­asm and spir­it I’ve nev­er seen any­where else. I’m very ex­cited to be here.”

Mul­ligan is a Sum­mer­dale nat­ive who at­ten­ded St. Mar­tin of Tours and Little Flower. She was a Span­ish teach­er at Ry­an from 1998 to 2006, then worked at Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic for sev­en years, in­clud­ing stints as as­sist­ant prin­cip­al for aca­dem­ic af­fairs and chair­wo­man of the world lan­guage de­part­ment. She said she “whole­heartedly be­lieves in Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion.”

In her new role, she will help over­see school activ­it­ies, stu­dent life and sports.

“I’m ex­cited for the op­por­tun­ity. It’s a new po­s­i­tion, and I al­ways wanted to work at an all-girls school,” said Muil­ligan, who gradu­ated from an all-girls high school along with Chest­nut Hill Col­lege when it was a wo­men’s col­lege. “There’s a spir­it that noth­ing com­pares to it. I wanted to be part of that in my teach­ing and ad­min­is­trat­ive ca­reer.

St. Hubert will open for its 185 fresh­men on Sept. 4 for a “Bam­bies on the Block” wel­com­ing party and a gen­er­al day of get­ting ac­climated to the build­ing. The ninth-grade class will be the biggest of the school’s four grades.

“We’ll greet the fresh­men com­ing in up the steps and shake their hands,” said Far­rell, adding that the tra­di­tion also in­cludes shak­ing the hands of gradu­at­ing seni­ors as they walk down the steps for the fi­nal time on the last day of school.

Sopho­mores, ju­ni­ors and seni­ors re­port on Sept. 5. Every­body will be to­geth­er for the first time on Sept. 6. Total en­roll­ment is pro­jec­ted to be 680-700.

Far­rell knew that Craig was leav­ing in early March, and he and the arch­diocese went through the form­al in­ter­view pro­cess. Walls’ re­sume shot to the top of the list.

“We were sure we had the right can­did­ate,” said Far­rell, who calls Walls “one of the most or­gan­ized people I know.”

Walls at­ten­ded St. George Ele­ment­ary School in Port Rich­mond, then the former all-girls St. Fran­cis Academy in Pitt­s­burgh. She spent 15 years teach­ing at Little Flower, in­clud­ing five as dean of stu­dents. She was also activ­it­ies dir­ect­or at Ry­an, in­clud­ing the chal­len­ging time when the arch­diocese an­nounced in Janu­ary 1988 that the boys and girls schools would merge.

Next, she spent eight years at St. Hubert, in­clud­ing two years as the school’s first pres­id­ent, be­fore mov­ing on to Car­din­al Dougherty.

“I wanted to be a prin­cip­al again,” she said.

Walls re­mained as prin­cip­al at Dougherty un­til 1999, then be­came prin­cip­al at Ocean City High School at the Jer­sey shore.

“I com­muted,” she said.

Walls en­joyed her time at Ocean City, but also spent week­ends help­ing with the St. Hubert ap­peal and joined the school’s board as chair­wo­man of the edu­ca­tion com­mit­tee.

“My heart really tugged last year,” she said.

St. Hubert won her heart be­cause of its fo­cus on aca­dem­ics, ath­let­ics, dis­tance learn­ing, mu­sic, art, ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies such as the year­book and school news­pa­per and dual-cred­it agree­ments with Holy Fam­ily, Im­macu­lata and Neu­mann uni­versit­ies.

In ad­di­tion, there is little staff turnover. Most mem­bers of the fac­ulty have at least one mas­ter’s de­gree. She will be re­ly­ing on her staff, and be­lieves that a strong and happy staff works well to­geth­er.

At the re­cent Bam­bies at the Beach re­union in North Wild­wood, N.J., she met many alum­nae and friends of the school who offered sup­port.

As an ad­ded bo­nus, the River­ton, N.J. res­id­ent will have a much short­er com­mute.

“It’s four miles from my home to St. Hubert’s,” she said. “If I had a jet ski, I could go right across to Cottman Av­en­ue.”

Walls has a book on her desk titled, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be. She sees that as a good theme for the whole school com­munity.

“It’s go­ing to be a good year,” she said. ••

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