New President, Principals to Serve at Several Schools in Rockford Diocese
August 11, 2016

Students and parents at several schools in the Rockford Diocese are meeting new school leaders as the school year gears up. While some are new faces, others are already familiar to their school families.

The Observer invited each of the newcomers to answer a few questions. Those who have already responded are introduced here. Look for more information as we receive it.

Rosary Hires First School President

AURORA—Dr. Thomas Choice has been selected to be Rosary High School’s first president.
Dr. Choice began his service on Aug. 1. Sister Ann Brummel, OP, will remain as Rosary’s principal.

Dr. Thomas Choice

After deliberation, Rosary’s board of directors and the member board opted to restructure Rosary’s administration to a president-and-principal model. Two schools in the Rockford Diocese — Marmion Academy in Aurora and Boylan Central Catholic High School in Rockford — use that model.

Dr. Choice, whose doctorate is in higher education administration, began his career as an English teacher at Marmion Academy in the early 1980s.

Most recently, he served as president of Kishwaukee College in Malta from 2007 until his retirement in December of 2015.

He has expertise in strategic planning, fundraising, and forging strong and enduring relationships with other educational partners, local businesses, and community agencies.

Dr. Choice has also served as chair of the Rosary High School board of directors 2015-2016.

His wife, Susan (O’Brien) Choice, graduated from Rosary in 1978. She is a physical therapist at Delanor Hospital in Geneva.

Their two daughters, are also Rosary alumnae, Meghan in 2010 and Rachel in 2014. Meghan is a third-grade teacher in Nashville, Tenn., and Rachel, a junior at Loras College in Duguque, Iowa.

Son Matthew is a 2012 graduate of Marmion Academy, a 2016 graduate of the University of Iowa and is beginning work on a master’s degree in athletic training at the University of South Carolina.

The family attends Holy Cross Parish in Batavia.

As an experienced administrator, Dr. Choice will oversee Rosary’s recently developed 10-year strategic plan, design and support innovative programs, and promote Rosary within the community.

A reception in his honor will be held at 9 a.m. Sept. 25, at Rosary High School in conjunction with its annual Veritas Mass and brunch.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the students and community of Rosary High School,” he said. “I look forward to supporting and building upon the long tradition of excellence in providing a premier Catholic, college-prep education for young women in the Fox Valley area.”

“My early goal is to get to know as much as I can about the people, the students, the parents, the family here at Rosary,” he said.

Barb Villont Now Superintendent, Principal at St. Edward CCHS in Elgin

ELGIN—A familiar face in Catholic education in the Rockford Diocese, Barbara Villont takes on the role of superintendent and principal at St. Edward Central Catholic High School in Elgin this year.

Barbaro Villont

She worked at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock for eight years. She was the technology director from 2008 to 2010, then joined the school administrative team for six years. Her first post was director of curriculum and technology (2010-2014), then served as principal for the past two years (2014-2016).

She has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Illinois State University,. She also has two masters degrees from Aurora University, one in educational leadership and another in business administration in leadership.

She and her husband Kevin  have been married for 23 years. They are parents of five children, all of whom graduated from Montini Catholic School in McHenry.

Jake, the oldest, graduated from Marian Central Catholic High School in 2015 and attends DePaul University. Daughter Makala graduated from Marian Central this year and will begin her studies at Marquette University this fall. Daughter Hannah (Class of 2018), Sam (Class of 2020), and Zoe (Class of 2020) are students at Marian Central.

They are parishioners at St. Patrick in Hartland.

“As a new member of the St. Edward Community,” Villont said, “it is my primary concern to get to know the entire school community. St. Edward is a faithful, committed, Catholic family, and in order to best support the continued success and help address the challenges, we must first get to know one another in order to build trust, to identify the school’s needs, and to establish a collaborative working relationship.

“In the short time I have been in Elgin,” she added, “I have already learned that St. Ed’s, along with the entire Elgin Deanery, is comprised of a dedicated family with incredible passion and undefined potential, which will mean boundless opportunities ahead.”

Villont says she is “passionate about continued sustainability and the future growth of Catholic schools. This is my ministry in the Church.  .... The work we do affords us the joy of guiding students in understanding their faith as a source of strength and identifying their God-given talents to determine their interests, gifts, and future paths. ... I thank God every day for the privilege to serve in Catholic schools.”

St. Mary Grad to Head Sycamore School This Year

SYCAMORE—Janice Benson, who will be serving as interim principal for St. Mary School for the 2016-17 school year, is a graduate of St. Mary School as are her three adult sons.

“This school and parish community is very special to me,” she said, “especially since it was here that my faith in God was nurtured.”

Janice Benson

She and her husband Don are both 1970 graduates of Sycamore High School.  

Their sons are in their 30s, all married to “amazing daughters-in-law.” They live in Chicago, Seattle, and Kansas City.

The couple is also first-time grandparents of Lynn Adeline, who lives in Chicago.

Benson attended Western Illinois University in Macomb,  where she earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary and special education in 1974.

During her first teaching job at Southeast Elementary School, she started work on a master of science degree in special education. She completed that degree in May 1979 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. She later earned a certificate of graduate study for director of special education at NIU, at the same time  earning her administrative certification.

While her sons were young, she also completed a nursing degree from Kishwaukee College, then worked at Kishwaukee Community Hospital as a registered nurse for several years in the pediatric unit, later called the Family Center.

Her nursing credentials with the State of Illinois remain up-to-date.

I recently retired from 30 years in education with the Sycamore School District. She taught at both elementary and secondary levels in the district.

The last 10 years of her career, she worked at the administrative center for the Sycamore School District, serving first as an educational diagnostician, then special education coordinator for Sycamore Middle School and Sycamore High School. Her last post was as director of Special Education for the school district.

In the parish community, she is involved with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, serves as extraordinary minister of Communion for Mass and Kindred Hospital, Hope for Haitians and funeral luncheons.

She is also a member of the Sycamore Library Board, Sycamore History Museum, and Pay it Forward House, and works as a DeKalb County election judge.

She has set her goal for this school year with words from Pope Francis:

“Our generation will show that it can rise to the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space. This means that we have to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be.”

New St. Patrick Principal has Experience in Post

ST. CHARLES—Jodi Falotico joins St. Patrick School here as principal this year.

Jodi Falotico

She earned a bachelor of science degree in health administration at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a teaching certificate and a master’s degree in special education at Northeastern Illinois University, and a master’s in educational administration at Aurora University.

She comes to St. Patrick School from Thompson Middle School in St. Charles, where she served as assistant principal.

Falotico has been married to her husband Jim for 30 years. They are parents of grown daughters Markie and Jackie. They “rescued” the family dog Stanley in 2010 when the Blackhawks won the cup of the same name.

Her primary goal for next year is to “lead with Catholic values while facilitating student and adult growth.”

She’d also like parents and students to know, “I am passionate.”

Holy Family Parishioner in First Year as Principal

ROCKFORD—Corrine Gendron will be the new principal at Holy Family School this year.

She earned a master’s degree in educational administration from National Louis University in 2004 and a bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education from Northern Illinois University in 1991.

Corrine Gendron

With 20 years experience at schools in the Rockford Diocese, Gendron taught middle school at St. Bridget in Loves Park for eight years, was principal at Cathedral of St. Peter  School for six years, then was principal at St. Edward School in Rockford for six years.

As a 28-year parishioner at Holy Family, she and her family will be familiar to the school family.

Both of her children graduated from Holy Family School and Boylan Central Catholic High School. Her recently-married daughter lives in Rockford with her husband. Her son will be a senior at the University of Illinois-Champaign this year.

“My goal for the coming school year,” she said, “is to work hard to bring our parish and school families together and to build enrollment.

Former Teacher Moves to Principal Post in East Dubuque

EAST DUBUQUE—Angela Jones will be the principal at St. Mary School, here, this year.
She has a bachelor of science degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, both from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Angela Jones

She joined the faculty last year, teaching fifth and sixth grades.

A resident of Dubuque, Iowa, she and her family attend St. Raphael Cathedral there. She has been married to Jeremy for 18 years. Their children are MaryRose,14; Rita 13; Cecilia 11; Anastasia 11; and Maximilian, 3.

“My main goal is to ensure that all of our students are as successful as they can be in all areas of their education,” she said, adding, “I would want the families to know that our teachers, families and students work together to create a school where all feel welcome.”

Sterling Teacher To Lead St. Anne School in Dixon

DIXON—Karen Payan will be leading St. Anne School in Dixon this year.

Karen Payan

She attended Western Illinois University and is continuing her education at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

When she finishes her master of science in education degree there, she will officially take over as principal. In the meantime, she will be guided and mentored by the Sterling Deanery education superintendent, Kathy Howard, principal of Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling.

Payan  has been a junior high teacher at St. Mary School in Sterling.

She not only teaches religious education there, but serves in several ministries, including catechism, adoration, eucharistic ministry, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and distribution of Communion to the homebound.

In addition, Payan has served as president of the board of Gianna’s House and is working with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Freeport to establish the Madonna Renewal Center.

She attends Sacred Heart Parish in Sterling. She has been been married to her “best friend,” Jay, for 33 years.  They have six children and five grandchildren.

“My main goal at St. Anne School is to first get to know all my staff and families,” she said, adding “I would also like to build our pre-school program.

“The first time I walked into St. Anne,” she said, “I was touched by their beautiful church and tabernacle at the very center of their school.  I feel honored and blessed to have my office so near Jesus every day.”

Faculty Veteran Becomes Principal in Algonqin

Alison Mallo

ALGONQUIN—Alison Mallo will move up to principal and educational leader of St. Margaret Mary School, here, this year.

She will begin her 10th year at the school in the new post, moving up from assistant principal.

At St. Margaret Mary, she has also taught music and first grade.

She has a master of art degree in educational leadership from Concordia University and a bachelor of art degree in elementary education from Northeastern Illinois University.

She lives in Lake in the Hills with her husband of 24 years and  two sons who will be attending Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock  as a freshman and a senior.

“One of my goals will be to continue my commitment to always respect and serve the Lord, my staff, my school families and my students,” she said.

In Aurora, Long-Time Teacher to Lead Annunciation BVM

AURORA—The new principal at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School, Jennifer Wardynski, is familiar both as a teacher and as a parishioner.

Jennifer Wardynski

She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southern Illinois University and is working on a master’s degree  in educational leadership from Aurora University.

For the past nine years, she was the sixth-grade teacher at Annunciation.

She and her husband Joe have three children — Madelyn, Jack, and Grant. They also have two dogs named Backer and Major.

They have been parishioners at Annunciation BVM Parish since 2003.

“In my first year as principal of Annunciation, I am most excited about building relationships with the children and spending time in the classrooms,” Wardynski said.

“I would like the parents and students to know that I am very excited to serve Annunciation and help our children grow academically and spiritually this year,” she added.

Look for additional school leader profiles in upcoming editions of The Observer.