Sister Jane Marie Kudlacz retiring as Mooney principal
By Denise Dick
When Sister Jane Marie Kud- lacz locks up her office at the end of the day June 30, it will be the last time she leaves Cardinal Mooney High School as its principal.
After 24 years, Sister Jane Marie will retire and plans to spend more time in a leadership position with the Sisters of Humility of Mary at Villa Maria.
“This is the right time,” she said.
John Young, Liberty High School principal and a Mooney graduate, has been appointed Mooney principal, effective July 1.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to continue the tradition and spirit that were the founding elements of this school: scholarship, sanctity and discipline,” Sister Jane Marie said.
Her time at the school saw many state championships in athletics: four in football, 1987, 2004, 2006 and 2009; two in golf, 1988 and 1989; track in 1990; cross country in 1999; and soccer in 2002.
For 23 of Sister Jane Marie’s 24 years as principal, James Cooney, who retired last year, served as Mooney’s assistant principal.
“She was an outstanding administrator,” Cooney said. “The overriding thing was she always tried to do what was best for the students.”
Sister Jane Marie instituted block scheduling at the school, which allowed students to fit in more classes, he said. That allows kids to explore different subjects through electives, Cooney said.
That change, though, was implemented after the staff reached consensus.
“As a boss, you can dictate what you want, or you can get employees involved in the decision making,” Cooney said.
Sister Jane Marie got staff involved, he said.
“She was an innovator,” Cooney said. “She really was.”
Sister Jane Marie calls the Mooney staff “a learning community.”
They study and learn together and work collaboratively to try new concepts they believe may benefit the school.
At the time of her arrival, though, the school was struggling.
“Enrollment was decreasing, and the curriculum was not as strong as it needed to be,” she said.
The Diocese of Youngs-town had initiated a study to determine ways to bolster the curriculum. Sister Jane Marie joined the school during the implementation of that plan. It called for expanding the curriculum, offering additional advanced-placement courses for students and increasing the fine-arts offerings.
Her tenure also saw improvements to the physical facilities at the school, from the building to the athletic fields.
The school also fosters a loyalty and respect among students, not just for the school and the church but for one another, the retiring principal said. That helps to continue the sense of the Mooney family that stays with students after graduation.
“Our alumni is very strong and loyal to the school,” Sister Jane Marie said.
It was alumni who first spoke to her upon her arrival at Mooney, discussing with her what they believed the school needed.
A Cleveland native, Sister Jane Marie worked for nine years at Central Catholic High School in Canton as a teacher and assistant principal before coming to Mooney.
She lists both the students and staff as the things she’ll miss most about her job.
Two of Mary Therese and Tom Driscoll’s 14 children are students at the school. The other 12 are either alumni or future students.
The January 2009 night that Tom Driscoll was critically injured in a car accident, Sister Jane Marie met her at the hospital.
“She took my cellphone and called the kids to get them here,” Mary Therese said. “She’s good in a crisis. She starts moving right away.”
Sister Jane Marie has been there for other families during difficult times as well. “When there’s a tragedy, she’s the first one to try to help you out and do things,” Mary Therese said.
She’s very compassionate, she said.
“She has been good to us personally, but I also think she’s set Mooney on the right path,” Mary Therese said. “She’s a really good businesswoman.”
Cooney said Sister Jane Marie was dedicated and attended as many Mooney functions as she could.
“Mooney is going to miss her,” he said.