Oakland Catholic sees change in leadership

School replacing two top leaders at once

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Caitlin O'Brien-Rice remembers having to eat lunch in the basement of Oakland Catholic High School.

"When I was a student, we might as well have worn construction hats," she joked.

Ms. O'Brien-Rice graduated from the all-girls school in 2006 and remembers her high school being constantly in the process of renovation. She and her classmates complained. But teachers and staff members, including president Katherine Freyvogel and principal Maureen Marsteller, always reminded her to "think about the future."

Now, nearly a decade later as both Mrs. Freyvogel and Mrs. Marsteller prepare to leave their posts, Ms. O'Brien-Rice is serving as the school's director of alumnae relations and the annual fund. She said she feels fortunate for being able to witness firsthand the changes championed by the school's two top administrators.

Mrs. Freyvogel announced earlier this academic year that she planned to retire. She has served as president of the school since 1997, the year when many local Catholic schools adopted the leadership model that included a president and principal as top administrators. Mrs. Marsteller is becoming superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Greensburg, that diocese announced this week.

Mrs. Freyvogel will take on the role of "president emeritus," Ms. O'Brien-Rice said. She will continue to work with the school's board to advance its capital campaign, which raises money to enhance students' educational experience. For instance, the school recently implemented a "one-to-one program," which will provide all students with a MacBook Air laptop to support the school's curriculum with updated technology.

"We've come a long way in 25 years," Mrs. Freyvogel said. "We're preparing ourselves to be successful in the future."

In March, the school announced that Mary Claire Kasunic, who chairs the school's foreign languages department, would be the next president. Ms. O'Brien-Rice said Mrs. Kasunic was chosen after a lengthy search that considered candidates from inside and outside the school.

Mrs. Kasunic also served as interim president of the school in 2001, before the hiring of Mrs. Marsteller. Mrs. Kasunic will take on her new role July 1.

Mrs. Marsteller said she believes the school is in good shape, both fiscally and physically, and now is an appropriate time for transition. So, when the opportunity arose for her to assist with Catholic education in Greensburg, she took it.

"My mission in life is to bring Catholic education to all children," she said. "By moving to the Diocese of Greensburg as the superintendent of Catholic education, I get to affect a whole new generation of students from K to 12."

The Very Rev. Lawrence A. DiNardo, vice chairman of Oakland Catholic's board of directors, said the search process for a new principal was just beginning.

He said the dual departures of Mrs. Freyvogel and Mrs. Marsteller represent a "loss of a long history that we've had at the school," but added that both women set the school up for a smooth transition.

Board chairwoman Mary Catherine Conroy Hayden said she is excited about the transition because the school's staff is talented enough to weather change.

"We are a girls' high school and we are committed to girls' education," she said. "The new leader must be familiar with girls' education."

Wesley Yiin: wyiin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1723.

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