Experienced educators taking over leadership roles at St Hubert’s High School have long history of Catholic education.
Gerry Laskowski is a graduate of St. William Grammar School and Archbishop Ryan High School, and taught at three Catholic high schools before moving on to the School District of Philadelphia.
After Joanne Walls announced her retirement as principal of St. Hubert High School in June, Laskowski applied for and was hired for the job.
“I’m a product of Catholic schools and I wanted to return to the system,” he said.
Eric Stonesifer taught at St. John Neumann and North Catholic high schools before heading to Pope John Paul II in Royersford, Montgomery County.
When Rose Scioli left St. Hubert late summer as vice principal for academics, Stonesifer was hired.
“There was a calling to get back into Catholic urban education,” he said.
Laskowski and Stonesifer, along with school president Lizanne Pando and assistant principal for student affairs Patti Dougherty, lead a school of about 640 girls.
Laskowski likes the president/principal setup in archdiocese high schools.
“It’s a very good model. I become the instructional leader,” he said.
The new principal grew up in Lawndale and attended Cardinal Dougherty as a freshman until his family moved to Somerton. He is a 1972 graduate of Ryan.
He graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in criminal justice, a minor in business and a certification to teach social studies in grades seven through 12. He later earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Villanova.
The first three stops in his teaching career were at West Catholic, St. John Neumann and Archbishop Carroll, where he taught theology, social studies and business.
Next, it was off to the school district, where he taught social studies and business at Olney and Germantown. He was dean of students at South Philadelphia.
He was also an area manager for the school district and most recently the district’s grants compliance officer.
“Here I am at St. Hubert’s,” he said.
Stonesifer is a Maryland native who came to Philadelphia to attend La Salle University and stayed. He has a degree in history, and taught at West Philadelphia before several stints at archdiocesan schools.
He was a math teacher at Neumann during its last year before it merged with St. Maria Goretti in 2004. He taught at North Catholic for six years and was the social studies department chairman when the school closed in 2010.
That same year, he began teaching at the new Pope John Paul II, which was a merger between Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius X. He was there for seven years, spending time as the social studies curriculum chairman for the archdiocese and handling strategic planning and Middle States Commission on Higher Education preparation for the school.
He was hired at St. Hubert on Labor Day weekend, and soon came to appreciate the students.
“These girls, intuitively and naturally, think at a very high level,” he said.
Laskowski knew some of the faculty members, and he thinks it’s helpful that some of the teachers are graduates of the school.
He spent 10 days working with Walls, whom he knew when she was principal at Dougherty and he headed the Germantown school district cluster.
“She was very helpful in the transition process,” he said. “It was a smooth opening.”
Some of the teachers and department chairs visited the school in the summer to introduce themselves.
“They were very gracious. We have a very experienced, senior staff,” he said.
Laskowski also had a chance to meet members of the National Honor Society and student council.
“They were very receptive,” he said.
Stonesifer quickly learned of the sisterhood at the school.
“They look out for each other. They know what it’s like to be a Bambie at St. Hubert’s,” he said.
Laskowski and Stonesifer share the same goals. They want to enhance the academic program, increase standardized test scores, ensure safety, instill discipline, get the girls ready for college and career, support the sports teams and other activities and work with alumnae, parents and the community.
At St. Hubert, there are more than 40 clubs.
“There’s something for everybody,” Laskowski said. “There are plenty of social activities beyond sports.”
The men believe they are arriving on the scene at a great time, a year after the all-girls school celebrated its 75th anniversary.
“There’s something to be said about the traditions and bonds that help the girls succeed professionally and personally,” Stonesifer said.
“There’s a close bond and a rich tradition that’s very unique,” Laskowski said. “We’re blessed.” ••