MERRILLVILLE — The future of administrative leadership is strong, Andrean High School officials say after it was announced Wednesday night that President Tony Bonta will resign this August.
Bonta's resignation comes following a turbulent several years of leadership change at the Diocese of Gary high school which has seen six principals and two presidents in the last eight years.
Bonta had just been promoted to president in March. Though, school officials say they couldn't be in better hands as Jaycob Knazur, who was also promoted this spring, looks to continue in his role as principal and share in the president's responsibilities with Assistant Principal Kelly Fitzgerald.
"Being a part of several administrative transitions over the course of my years at Andrean, this transition is noticeably different from others," Knazur wrote to Andrean parents Wednesday night. "Know that we remain committed as we focus on doing what we have always been tasked to do — providing quality, college-reparatory, Catholic education and formation to the families of Northwest Indiana."
Administrative turnover first struck the school in 2011 when the Rev. Paul Quanz resigned after 18 years as principal to become a priest within the Gary diocese. His replacement, Mary Beth Ginalski, joined the school in August 2012 and left in March 2014, subsequently filing a federal employment discrimination lawsuit that claimed Andrean's then-President Harry Vande Velde III encroached on her role as principal and exercised favoritism of younger employees.
Vande Velde was named Andrean president in September 2013, making Andrean the first Diocese of Gary high school to embrace a president-principal model of school administration. Under the leadership structure, school presidents specialize in marketing, fundraising and strategic planning, while principals focus on education and academics.
Paul R. Cherry, then a magistrate judge with the Northern Indiana District Court, sided with Vande Velde and Andrean High School on Ginalski's claims of discrimination, but also sided with Ginalski's counterclaims in the case of defamation and unjust enrichment.
Following Ginalski's departure, Benjamin Potts served as Andrean principal for less than a year, leaving in June 2015. Less than two weeks after that, Vande Velde submitted his resignation to the Diocese of Gary, leaving Andrean without a president for nearly four years.
In those years, the school moved back to its original administrative structure with its principal serving as the top building administrator. Rick Piwowarski, a former assistant principal at Andrean, served as principal after Potts' resignation.
In May 2016, the Diocese of Gary formed a task force to evaluate school leadership, during which time Bonta joined the school first as an acting administrator, then as principal.
Bonta was promoted to president this March as the school looked to move back to its former president-principal model. Bonta did not give a reason for his departure in the school's announcement Wednesday evening.
Bonta's resignation comes as Andrean school administrators and the Diocese of Gary search for a location to build a new school — efforts school officials are calling the Andrean Initiative. Bishop Donald Hying, who was recently installed as the fifth bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, blessed the plan in December.
Joe Majchrowicz, superintendent of schools of the Diocese of Gary, said the Andrean Initiative team has been considering property in the area of I-65 and U.S. 231, south of the school's current location on Broadway in Merrillville.
Andrean officials say Knazur and Fitzgerald have been working closely with Bonta to assume his strategic responsibilities after he leaves next month. Knazur said given the strong administration in place at Andrean, the school has no plans to return to the president-principal model currently in place in the diocese's Bishop Noll Institute.
Majchrowicz said continuing without a president results in a cost-savings for the school, although any future administrative structures will be taken one year at a time.
Knazur is a 2005 graduate of Andrean High School, studied history and political science at Valparaiso University and recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame's Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program with a master's degree in educational leadership and earned his administrative licence.
He joined Andrean in 2013 as a social studies teacher and was appointed as dean of students in the 2017-18 school year prior to being named principal.
"Dr. Bonta has worked hard to bring stability to Andrean High School while looking to a solid future for the institution," the Rev. Michael Yadron, diocesan administrator, said in a statement. "The principal, Jaycob Knazur, and assistant principal, Kelly Fitzgerald, have been working diligently with Dr. Bonta for a smooth and successful transition. I have confidence that they can provide the Andrean community what is necessary as they look to the future."