Founded in 1873, Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP) boasts a lengthy and impressive reputation throughout the independent school community in Baltimore. Its one-to-nine student to faculty ratio, 100 percent acceptance rate to four-year colleges, and more than $22 million in academic scholarships awarded to this year’s graduating seniors speak to just some of its marks of excellence. Joanne Jones, NDP’s new incoming executive director of academics, plans to build on the school’s positive trajectory. Read our interview with her here:
You are approaching some big life changes over the next few months: moving from the Midwest to the East Coast and transitioning from a co-ed, preschool through grade eight school to an all-girls’ middle- and high school. How does that feel?
Transitioning to NDP as the Executive Director of Academics feels like coming home. In December of 2018, I engaged in a national search for a top leadership position in Catholic education. Much of my search focused on the East Coast. My son and daughter-in-law live in Manhattan, and I have extended family scattered throughout the East Coast. When I arrived at NDP for my two-day visit, I had the opportunity to meet with faculty, staff, students, alumnae and Sister Patricia. I left knowing that I would welcome the opportunity to lead and collaborate at NDP. I was blessed to have several excellent opportunities, none as compelling as NDP.
What cinched your decision to take the job at NDP?
Everyone I have had the opportunity to meet at NDP feels fortunate to be part of the community. Students, faculty and staff resoundingly let me know I would “love my time at NDP.” Several reached out to personally welcome me to the community. The commitment to personal and professional excellence in a supportive atmosphere attracted me to NDP.
In what some might say is an increasingly secular world, an education rooted in a religious foundation continues to remain a high priority for many families. How did this factor into your professional decision?
Faith is the lens through which I view the world. As a Catholic school leader, I am deeply committed to sharing my faith with my community. NDP aligns personal excellence–becoming the very person God intended—with the understanding that our gifts and talents are given to each of us in perfect proportion for the good of all. Catholic identity is evident throughout the campus and curriculum at NDP.
The student body is what makes a school thrive. What strikes you about NDP’s students?
I am struck by their spirit. When I visited in February, the hallways were filled with students after school preparing for Gym Meet. During the day I caught a glimpse of the Project Greenway assembly. My time observing in the classroom was equally impressive as I witnessed NDP students engage in a literature discussion at a high level.
You come from a co-ed background. What about NDP’s single-sex environment are you excited to embrace?
For me, joining the NDP community marks a return to my roots in all-girl’s education. I attended Mercy High School, an independent all girls Catholic school in the greater Detroit area. My first teaching position was at Marian High School, an independent all-girls Catholic school in Birmingham, MI. After graduate school, I returned to Mercy to lead the English department. During my tenure at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan I served as a Director on the leadership team. Our 5-12 school was all girls. My own children attended single-sex schools. My success as a leader is a direct result of the expectations and opportunities I experienced in an all-girls school.
In your new role, you will be overseeing NDP’s academic identity. How would you define NDP’s academics, and do you have any immediate plans to tweak or add to them?
As Executive Director of Academics, my first goal is to immerse myself in the curriculum and engage with the faculty. NDP has a strong identity and reputation for excellence. I intend to bring my experience and perspective to the conversation.
What would you like the NDP community to know about you—both before you begin your new job and once you’re entrenched in the position?
I am joyful. I welcome the gift of each new day and the opportunity to grow. I am curious and learn mostly by doing. Also, I am flexible and dedicated. My best thinking is in critical problem solving and thinking outside the box.
This interview has been edited for length.
Founded in 1873, Notre Dame Preparatory School is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for approximately 800 girls in grades 6-12. The School Sisters of Notre Dame sponsor the school, which is dedicated to educating girls to become young women who will transform the world.