“We need to promote this gem of the south side for what it is,” said Dooley. “There are great public schools here, but we can offer something that not every school can with a Catholic education.”
While he grew up in public schools, his parents were both the products of Catholic schools all the way through college. For him, a Catholic education is about so much more than just what you find in a book. With a smaller student body, it allows for more one-on-one, individualized instruction.
“There’s a concern not just for academics but true concern for the whole student: body, mind, and soul,” he said. “It’s not just about conjugating verbs or memorizing lines of poetry, it’s about teaching faith and values and modeling those.”
Along with that philosophy, Dooley strongly encourages students to be involved in extracurriculars, especially at Mercy where they can be in several groups or multiple teams.
“There’s a lot a student can do to be a more well-rounded student,” he said. “We encourage not just academics, athletics, and drama, but also community service-related work. Whether it be through a mission trip or scouting, it’s about getting involved in your community and making connections.”
Dooley is a principal for the first time, but he brings the experience of 20 years in education, most recently at St. Thomas High School in Houston, Texas, where he headed up the language department and also led mission trips to Cuba and Nicaragua. He was drawn in by the small-school environment of Mercy, and the community within.
“Mercy has a special feel to it,” he said, noting it reminded him of his first teaching job in New Orleans. “You have a true feeling of community. You leave work on Friday, but you are excited to go back to work on Monday because that is your work family. It is a true sense of family and community, and that’s what I’ve felt here so far. Everybody’s so welcoming.
“Part of me is saying ‘Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?’”
The administration, staff, and faculty are recharged and ready for the year.
“Everybody’s willing to drop everything and help. In a school like Mercy where we might not have the big staff that others schools might have, everybody wears an extra hat or several extra hats,” he said. “They do for it for the community. They do it because they love Mercy.”
He’s eager to tap into the alumni base of Mercy now. There are several in the faculty, and he wants more to come back home and see what they’re building. It’s all part of strengthening the Mercy family.
“They are such an important part of this community. They are welcome, and we love to see them come back,” he said. “This is their home.”
The school year has only just begun, but the sights are set high.
“Talking to parents and students, I think there’s a lot of great things that we can accomplish over the next year.”