There are many paths to take to Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Ellicott City – some that wind around hillsides and alongside train tracks near Patapsco State Park. But for Rose Goeres, the school's new principal, the path to OLPH began on the other side of the country.
Earlier this summer, Goeres got into an R.V. with her husband, youngest daughter and two dogs. She had just left her position as principal at Assumption Catholic School in Bellingham, Wash., and the family drove east — with a stop in Montana — to Goeres' new job inMaryland.
Goeres said she looks forward to greeting the 236 students to OLPH, a Catholic, kindergarten through 8th-grade school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, when it opens Monday, Aug. 29.
"It's such a welcoming and connected school," she said. "Everyone's family. You don't feel like an outsider."
Goeres and her husband, Ted, began a nationwide job search when the lives of their daughters started to change. The youngest, Miriah, was graduating from the eighth grade and the family wanted a better fit for high school, Goeres said. Their oldest daughter, Jackie, was about to get married in Montana to a Columbia native after graduating from Johns Hopkins University, and the newlyweds planned to start their life together inHoward County.
"It really came down to the grace of God, and where He wanted us to be," Goeres said about her job search. "If God wanted us to be closer to Jackie, He'd find a way."
The way presented itself in several open positions within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Goeres said. The OLPH opening stood out, she said, because of the welcoming nature of the community she had experienced during visits. And so, her family moved across the country — with a stop in Montana for the July wedding — even though her husband did not have job lined up and they had no permanent housing.
Since they arrived, Ted has been hired to teach tech ed at Long Reach High School, and Miriah will start ninth grade at South Carroll High School.
Goeres, 44, replaced Nancy Malloy, who was principal for 10 years before she retired at the end of the school year. Goeres said because of Malloy's organization and guidance, she'll be able to hit the ground running when school starts.
"She spent a full week with me when I got here, past her contract," Goeres said. "There's still a learning curve, and in that way I could never replace her."
Still, the transition has been going "beautifully," said Florence Hahner, a math teacher and middle school chair at OLPH, who's been at the school nearly 15 years.
"Nancy has been so supportive of Rose, guiding her in the ins and outs of the school," Hahner said. "Every transition has its highs and lows, the bumps in the road, but because of the support, the bumps are so minor."
Goeres cited the supportive nature and the feeling of community and family as common themes she's found in her few weeks at the school.
"In talking with the staff, they say the same thing: they love the feeling they have and that they wouldn't want to be anywhere else," she said.
Leading a private, Catholic school during economically trying times can be difficult — OLPH has seen both students and teachers join its ranks from the closing of Woodmont Academy in Cooksville in June — especially when parents have the option of the Howard County Public School System, Goeres said. Still, she said, OLPH offers something public schools cannot.
"I think that while Howard County schools are the best of the best, and create students that are the best in the world, we create students that are the best for the world," she said. "It's not just about strong academics, it's about being good stewards of the earth."