By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
After seven years serving the public schools of Lacey Township, Robert J. Dougherty has come home to the Coastal Monmouth shoreline where he grew up and the Catholic educational system that formed him.
Dougherty, who began settling in as principal of St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, July 1, described the career change as an exhilarating prospect on a number of levels.
First of all, as a “product of a Catholic education” having attended St. Rose Elementary and St. Rose High School, both in Belmar, he was eager to return to the educational system where he enjoyed “a fantastic experience” that would culminate thus far, in a master’s degree in educational leadership from Seton Hall University, South Orange.
And, as St. Catharine School recently went through an extensive strategic planning process, Dougherty said he is excited about being a “driving force of the collective vision of our community and the overall progression of the school.”
Dougherty also anticipates “cultivating a professional learning community for our teachers (that) provides them with the necessary support and instructional development to keep pace with the growing needs of the students.”
Overall, he said, “it’s an exciting time for St. Catharine School and I feel privileged to have been chosen as the new principal.”
The son of retired educators, Dougherty taught health and physical education at Lacey Township High School. For one year, Dougherty, who received a bachelor of arts degree in education from The College of New Jersey, Ewing, filled a supervisory role at Millpond Elementary School and became its principal one year later.
One of his focuses in St. Catharine School will be implementing a STEM program entitled Project Lead the Way for students in grades preschool through eight that will integrate aspects of engineering and design, computer science and biomedical engineering.
His challenge is to “put all the pieces together” that the “school community identified as something they wanted to move forward with.” Dougherty said he was very interested in taking the program on because “it provides students challenging learning experiences that require innovation, collaboration, and problem solving skills that will best prepare them for their future careers.”
“At different stages of my career, I had the opportunity to work with students at both the elementary and high school level giving me a broad perspective on their academic skills and social development.
“St. Catharine school community is comprised of supportive parents, teachers, parishioners and alumni that are all committed to the growth and success of the school and the students.”
Dougherty said that one of the ways he plans to do that is by “regularly assessing our current practices by also searching for new ways to ensure that the students are challenged and supported through their academic journey.”
“It is critical to maintain this approach … to best serve our students,” he said.
As principal, Dougherty will strive to play a “large role in establishing a school environment that compliments the development of our students character, faith and values, one that will serve their academic, professional and personal pursuits throughout their lives.”