Our Lady of Mercy Regional School has a new principal.
Alexandra Conlan of Riverhead, 54, has been hired to replace Lorraine Delgenio, who recently retired from the post she’s held since 2008 at the parochial school.
Before coming to Our Lady of Mercy, a pre-K through sixth-grade school, Ms. Conlan worked as an art and Spanish teacher at St. Isidore’s school in Riverhead for more than 13 years.
Over the course of her career, she’s also worked at other parochial schools across Long Island.
Ms. Conlan is married and has five children between the ages of 16 and 29. She grew up in Elmhurst, Queens, and graduated from Manhasset High School. She later earned a Master’s of Science and Education in administration at Fordham University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art education.
We spoke to Ms. Conlan at the school this week to discuss her new role. The following was excerpted from the conversation.
Q: What attracted you to Our Lady of Mercy?
A: I enjoy teaching quite a bit. As time went on and I was asked to do more administrative things, [like becoming a principal] it just seemed like an easy fit for me. I like meeting people. I enjoy working with the teachers to bring about good things — academically and socially — for the students and the school. It’s a small gem in the middle of the East End and the parents are very dedicated. Most of the students score at a higher rate than their peers, so most of them are above grade level in their testing. Whatever has been done here has been done very well by the teachers and administration.
Q: What are your goals as principal?
A: I’ve done a lot of grant writing, so [one goal is to help] the school obtain some grants that will allow us to bring tablets into the building. We currently don’t have tablets, but we’re investigating grant monies to bring them in. It would be one more step in bringing the 21st century into the building. I’m also thinking about bringing in a strings program for the younger children. Our band program currently serves third-grade through sixth-grade. The strings program would work with students as young as preschoolers. With video conferencing, I’d like a program where students speak to other students in different parts of the world. We’re also looking to build our pre-K program. We recently started a full-time, five-days-a-week pre-K program for 3- and 4-year-olds. Pre-K is key. It’s the foundation.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the challenges Catholic schools face?
A: As a faith-based school, there’s the spiritual aspect of the child’s growth and we try to bring in the families to participate in that. I think one of the challenges today is people don’t have the time. Trying to have people make the time to participate in prayer, in Masses, in what their children are doing on the spiritual side, is important because that is our mission: to teach our faith. Anybody can come to school here — not just those of Catholic faith. It is a spiritual way of learning how to live day to day and not ‘my way or no way.’ It’s an open conversation. I think anybody coming here that isn’t a Catholic would feel comfortable. There is no ostracizing.
Q: Why is faith important to you?
A: I grew up Catholic. Faith is a strength that you draw on. It can be a joyous thing. For me, being in these schools, I can actually see the joy a child takes in the beliefs they have. There’s such an innocence to it. There’s no cynicism. It’s truly what it should be: an innocent joy in their faith, which, hopefully, we can remember as adults and give back in that way.