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SJIHM gets new leader at the helm

May 9, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Catherine Wigley has assumed the role of principal of St. Joseph IHM School in Austintown after former principal Lee Miles stepped down for personal reasons. Wigley is stepping into the position with a lot of experience, but admits taking on the role during the school year has been a challenge.

"I feel like I am on the caboose of a speeding train," she said, "but I have a good grip."

Wigley took over as principal right after spring break. She has been busy reviewing the programs and procedures and is already looking down the road with a focus on increasing enrollment.

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
St. Joseph Immaculate Heart of Mary School’s new Principal Catherine Wigley gets some fresh air with sixth-grade students Meg Walsh, Ryan Kopcial, Tatum Johnson, Jack Chepke, and Thomas Pitko last week.

"Right now we have over 205 students," she said. "Our capacity is roughly 300 so we want to work at building enrollment."

Wigley got her start in education after graduating from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1969. She got her teaching degree and started her career at St. Anne's in Austintown in 1974. She taught a combined first-second grade class. While teaching, she also returned to Youngstown State University to earn her master's degree in elementary principalship.

After putting in seven years at St. Anne's, she went on to put in another seven years at Sacred Heart in Youngstown, which combined with Immaculate Conception in her second year there.

She left Sacred Heart to take the role of principal of St. Luke's in Boardman where she spent the last 22 years. She said the Diocese went to a preschool program last year and closed the kindergarten through eighth-grade program as the move was made to a more regional Catholic School system.

Her expertise and experience made her an obvious choice to take over the role of principal at SJIHM. She said even though the school is a combination of two schools, keeping the roots will be important.

"We want to work with both St. Joseph and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes," she said. "We want them both to remain an important part of our school."

In keeping with that thought, the students took part in First Communion this week with one scheduled at Immaculate Heart of Mary at 10 a.m. and a second one at St. Joseph at 1 p.m.

As for goals for the coming years, Wigley said she wants to continue to work with technology.

"We want to expand the computer programs because learning is heading in that direction," she said.

She also has already began work on accreditation in what she is viewing as a two-year process. During that time she will work with the staff to search out areas that need improvement.

"The staff here is very prepared and does an excellent job with the kids," Wigley said.

One new program she noted was the school's first drama club. They just completed their first performance last week of "Godspell Jr."



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