No matter how early she arrives at school or how late she departs, there always seem to be students buzzing about the 70-acre campus of The John Carroll School, according to Principal Madelyn Ball.
And that’s no wonder, given the sheer number of activities, sports and arts programs available to the Bel Air school’s 700 students.
But one afternoon this fall (and another next spring), Ball will shut it all down and shoo her pupils home to spend quality time with their families. On these new Family Nights, proposed by school president Richard O’Hara, nothing will be scheduled after school -- no meetings, no practices, no games.
“It’s always what’s best for the kids,” Ball says of her philosophy as a school leader. “It’s the kids who make this place special.”
The school community is preparing for a flagship year, as 2014 marks the school’s 50th anniversary. Ball, now in her third year as principal, is charged with helping re-engage the school’s more than 8,000 alumni for special events, including a Mass in December at the Baltimore Basilica, where John Carroll is entombed, and the school’s Lighting the Way capital campaign.
And there are plenty of new initiatives to keep Ball busy.
Just this summer, the building that formerly served as a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph was renovated into dorms for international students, who hail from China, Japan, Korea, Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Italy, Spain, Canada and Liberia. Hosting these students dovetails with one of the school’s goals of providing students with a global perspective.
“That’s a challenge here in Harford County. It’s not the most diverse area,” says Ball, who lives in Bel Air. “We have to bring the world to the kids.”
And in the 2014-2015 school year, John Carroll will launch a new program that’s particularly dear to Ball’s heart -- St. Joseph’s program for students with mild learning disabilities. Something of a rarity in Catholic schools, the program will provide students with small class sizes and teachers trained to accommodate a variety of methods of learning.
Supporting her faculty is also a priority for Ball, who aims to equip her staff with “meat and potatoes strategies -- not just a ton of theories,” some of which she gleans from her membership in the Middle States Association, which allows her to experience best practices at other schools as they undergo accreditation.
Enamored with the Spanish language as a student, Ball initially set out to become a bilingual secretary. She realized her true passion during college when she independently held help sessions for her classmates struggling in accounting class.
A female principal at a coed Catholic school is somewhat unusual, Ball says, adding that The John Carroll School has had just one other female leader.
“We bring a different quality to the table. We look at things differently,” she says, adding that “I felt very encouraged here as a woman coming on board. I felt at home the minute I walked on this campus.”
Ball is also committed to continuing a strong tradition of volunteerism at John Carroll, nurturing the next generations of Samaritans. Her students don’t disappoint. The class of 2013, for instance, clocked 18,240 hours of service -- more than 8,000 above the requirement.
Off the clock with Ball
Favorite Book: “The Shack” by William P. Young
Hobby: Spending time with her four grandchildren, who are all younger than 2
Little-known fact: Her license plate WWOT1 stands for Wild Women of Towson, a group of about a dozen of her girlfriends from Towson High School who get together for annual beach trips, pajama parties and more.
Advice for career success: “I never say I have to go to work. I say, ‘I have to go to school.’ If you do things you love, you’ll never have to go to work a day in your life. I think that’s the key to happiness.”