HOWARD — Families interested in St. John the Baptist School don’t have to look hard to find the school’s core values. “Strong Faith,” “Strong Academics” and “Strong Family” icons and descriptions are found throughout the welcome packet — on an insert card, on the inside of the folder and within the family guide.
“I think any of our Catholic schools could say this, but I think we do these things particularly well,” said Andrew Mulloy, now in his sixth year as principal.
Mulloy expands on how the values are implemented at St. John the Baptist School, founded in 1888 as St. Leo’s, when he meets with prospective families. He gives every school tour.
“I think it’s important for families to meet the administrator, get to know me as a person, and I think it’s important for me to get to know them,” he said. “All of our Catholic schools in the diocese provide something that’s really different, so I think it’s important for families to get to truly understand who we are. I think it’s important that we mutually make that decision together, if this is a great fit for the family.”
Over the past year, Mulloy received two honors for his work. Last summer he was among only 16 principals statewide to receive a 2021 Principal Leadership Award from the Herb Kohl Education Foundation.
More recently, he was named a “Future 15” recipient and finalist for the “Young Professional of the Year Award,” sponsored by the Greater Green Bay Chamber Chapter of Current Young Professionals. An awards event, sponsored by the Donald J. Schneider School of Business and Economics at St. Norbert College, De Pere, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay.
Future 15 annually profiles 15 area young professionals who are growing and excelling in their respective fields. These individuals are currently influencing the growth, prosperity and quality of life in Greater Green Bay and will demonstrate the ability to positively impact the area in the future through professional accomplishments and community involvement.
“It’s an opportunity to get that recognition for St. John’s and also for GRACE (Green Bay Area Catholic Education),” he said.
Mulloy attended seminary after high school. He studied two years at St. John Vianney College Seminary on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
“When I left, I felt very called to lead and very called to serve the church,” he said. “I jumped right into education. I transferred to UW-Green Bay and finished my degree in education. I knew that I wanted to do Catholic school leadership.”
In 2010, he was hired as a teacher in the Hortonville Area School District. Mulloy started teaching at the middle school level, but later moved to the elementary grades in preparation for a possible move to Catholic education (mostly pre-K through eighth grade schools in the diocese). He also served as the summer school administrator.
His wife, Laura, a graduate of St. Bernard School and Notre Dame Academy, both in Green Bay, and St. Norbert College, was the youth minister at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Greenville. Mulloy served as the St. Mary School board chair. They have three children who attend St. John the Baptist School.
Enrollment at St. John the Baptist School has grown by more than 100 students over the past seven years. The goal is to have two classes per grade, said Mulloy. Currently there are two sections through fifth grade at the school, which serves preschool through eighth grade students.
“Having and maintaining two sections for each grade is great because teachers have a partner to collaborate with,” said Mulloy. “The kids have more social options. Having two sections per grade, we are still able to maintain that sense of a small Christian community.”
The number of students at St. John The Baptist School has increased since the start of COVID-19. The school shut down for in-person learning, along with all schools, in the spring of 2020. It opened with students in-person in the fall of 2020. The school closed again for three weeks that fall when Brown County was “the center” of the COVID spread, said Mulloy.
“We pivoted back to virtual. Our GRACE schools were then among the first to open back up in northeast Wisconsin,” he said.
Quarantine requirements were in place during the 2020-2021 school year, but ended when the current school year began.
“We are giving families that option,” said Mulloy. “If they want to quarantine, that’s a choice they can make. We want to keep the school open best we can. Both at St. John’s and at GRACE, we’ve really tried to prioritize families being able to make education choices for their kids.”
Choices for GRACE families during the 2020-2021 school year included a virtual option. Mulloy also served as principal for Our Lady of Grace Virtual Academy, in addition to his position at St. John the Baptist.
“We built a virtual school from scratch, and hired its own staff,” said Mulloy, who also serves on the Notre Dame Academy board of education. “We had teachers who were teaching virtual full-time. That program was preschool to eighth grade.
“We studied a number of models from across the country and came up with something that worked very well for our families,” he added. “We believe that kids are going to learn better in school. The social things that kids are learning are happening better in school. We provide a product that is faith-based. You can do that a lot better face-to-face than online. But for those who were with us all year online, it was remarkable the sense of community and faith growth.”
The pandemc continues to present challenges, especially a shortage of substitute teachers, said Mulloy. He has stepped in the classrom 24 days this school year as a substitute.
“We’ve been blessed here. A lot of our part-time staff are stepping up and coming in on days, when they are not contracted, to substitute,” he said. “We have a number of parents that are volunteering or coming in as paid substitute teachers to help out. We have some retired teachers who are coming in to help as well.
“The disruption that COVID-19 was to every industry was enormous, but I think education has been disrupted unlike it ever has before,” he added. “The innovation and new ways of thinking that has come out of that has been incredible and I think it’s changing education forever.”
Mulloy credits GRACE, the nine-school system, for support at St. John the Baptist and the virtual academy, including digital resources, technology services and in securing federal dollars and EANS (Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools) funds.
Moving forward, he said he hopes that initiatives put on hold due to COVID-19 will restart this spring, including discipleship groups made up of mixes of students from different grades. This school year marks the second for a new literacy program.
“Our teachers have been learning, going through professional development for this new writing program,” said Mulloy. “The stress (of COVID-19) has prevented the speed of some things.
“Above all, I’m super impressed with the professionalism of our staff at St. John’s and all of GRACE,” he added. “The commitment our teachers have for the kids and the compassion they have for families in unique situations, COVID and non-COVID, has been really impressive. They’ve truly risen to the occasion.”
During Catholic Schools Week, former St. John the Baptist teachers from the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Bay Settlement, will return to the school to speak to students. Four religious orders served the school over its long history.
Seven current teachers on staff are alumni. The student body now includes some fifth-generation students.
“It speaks to the commitment, sense of community and belief in the mission,” said Mulloy.