McNamara settling in as new Little Flower president

McNamara has found a sense of community, family, belonging and sisterhood at Little Flower.

Head of the class: Jeane McNamara has been named president of Little Flower High School. McNamara, 53, holds a degree in economics as well as a master’s in educational administration from Widener University. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Jeane McNamara has been on the job as president of Little Flower High School only since July 2, but she has seen enough to know about the pride of “Little Flower Nation.”

McNamara comes to LF after 10 years at Villa Maria Academy, where she served as director of curriculum and instruction at the all-girls school in Malvern.

“I’m thrilled for the challenge. It matches my personality,” she said. “It’s an easy sell. The spirit here is unbelievable. The minute I walked into the building, I felt God himself put me here.”

McNamara grew up in Aston, Delaware County. Her dad graduated from the old St. James High School in Chester, and her mom graduated from Archbishop Prendergast.

Young Jeane’s parish school, Our Lady of Fatima, was overcrowded, so she went to public school. She graduated from Sun Valley High School.

McNamara, 53, holds a degree in economics as well as a master’s in educational administration from Widener University. She later received six educational certifications from Widener.

Professionally, she was a tax analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, taught at Sun Valley and Conestoga, was assistant principal at Sun Valley, spent seven years with the Foundation for Teaching Economics and worked on capital projects at Widener. She was the 1999 National Economics Teacher of the Year and was inducted into Sun Valley’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Personally, she lives in Phoenixville. She and her husband, Bill, have three children. Colin is a student at Temple School of Medicine. Maggie is a sophomore sports marketing major at St. Joseph’s and an Eagles intern. Sean is a freshman at Great Valley High School who plays multiple sports.

At Villa Maria, she worked closely with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

At Little Flower, 10th and Lycoming streets, she is replacing an IHM nun, Sister Donna Shallo. The transition was smooth following McNamara’s appointment on April 5.

“Sister Donna was so gracious. I can’t thank her enough,” she said. “She was a phenomenal presence here.”

The principal, Sister Kathleen Klarich, remains.

“Sister Kathleen has been warm, inviting and welcoming,” McNamara said.

McNamara has found a sense of community, family, belonging and sisterhood at Little Flower.

Academically, she wants to focus on advanced-placement classes and technology courses to prepare the girls for college while continuing learning support for students who need it. Extracurricular activities are important at the school, and the mock trial team is a particular standout.

McNamara wants to start an allied health department and offer job shadowing and business etiquette days, and bring in strong women speakers to serve as role models. She hopes to give a good impression to the girls as a working mom and wife who has a strong faith and who has fulfilled her career potential.

College admission offices will like to see a student who went to high school in a diverse, urban setting, in McNamara’s view. She wants Little Flower to brag about all of its good qualities, not be so humble.

Support from alumnae will be critical to achieving her goals, she said. She’s met alums and doesn’t think there will be a problem, though she wants to energize younger grads.

“People absolutely love this place,” she said.

McNamara described the school’s board as “fantastic,” and she is eager to meet more teachers and students.

Though Little Flower opened on Sept. 1, 1939, she said the interior and exterior are fine.

“This is a great physical plant,” she said. “The building and grounds are pristinely kept.”

McNamara wants to help sustain Little Flower for the long haul in an era when free charter schools are hurting Catholic schools. The school works well with SEPTA, and the new president is hoping to recruit more girls from places like Roxborough, Manayunk and nearby suburban towns.

There are 115 freshmen in a school of about 500.

“That’s lower than we’d like it to be,” she said. “Enrollment is a challenge.”

McNamara’s job is to secure money to be able to offer tuition assistance. “Legacy” students, daughters of grads, for instance, receive $1,000 off their annual tuition. As part of the president’s outreach, she’ll be meeting with grade school principals.

“Once girls get here, there’s no other place. The search stops here,” she said. “This is a great school. This place runs like a well-oiled machine.”

McNamara was at Keenan’s Irish Pub in North Wildwood, New Jersey in July for the school’s all-class reunion.

The school is planning 80th anniversary festivities.

The 2019 summer reunion will return to Keenan’s as part of a weekend of activities from July 5–7. There will also be guest bartenders, a bonfire, Tramcar rides and Mass on the beach.

Other upcoming activities include a sports tailgate on Sept. 27. Some 500 middle schoolers will be invited to watch the fall teams play and practice, including on the turf field in Hunting Park.

McNamara will be formally installed as president on Sept. 30 at Normandy Farm in Blue Bell. The following day, Oct. 1, there will be a liturgy to celebrate the Feast of St. Therese, the school patron.

Open houses are set for Oct. 7 and 17.

The new president said Little Flower has a great arts, music and theater program, and she is looking forward to the December production of The Addams Family musical.

The class of 1969 Golden Girls will be taking part in the class of 2019’s graduation on June 7, 2019 at Holy Family University. Their 50th reunion celebration will take place that night.

Teachers report on Sept. 4, with first day for freshmen the following day. Sophomores, juniors and seniors return Sept. 6.

McNamara can’t wait to get the academic year started.

“I feel very energized,” she said. ••