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New principal is ready for school

John HartJanitor Dick Wisshack (left) helps Principal Joe Poggi move furniture into Poggi's office at Mount St. Mary's School Monday.
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At least one youngster is eager for school to start.

Joe Poggi, 34, is the new principal at Mount St. Mary’s School.

“I’m ready to hear screaming and yelling and pounding in the halls,” Poggi said about waiting for students to come back to school.



Monday morning, the youthful administrator was moving furniture with custodian Dick Wisshack in order to prepare for the school’s first day, Aug. 27.

“What we liked about him was his enthusiasm, his dedication to Catholic education,” said parishioner Don Kneepkens, who served on the interviewing committee that included the Rev. Simon Twomey and Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer.




Poggi’s former boss, Joan Walthers, principal of St. Joseph’s Parish School in Auburn, put Poggi in a second-grade classroom because “I thought Joe was able to deal with those little ones really well.”

“The kids loved Joe,” she said.

The youngest of nine children, Poggi graduated from Auburn’s Placer High School in 1987. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social science from California State University at Chico in 1991, he went on to receive a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1999.

“I knew administration was where I’d end up,” said Poggi, who also taught physical education at St. Joseph’s and religion at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento.

Poggi said he had to consider whether he wanted to “teach history for 35 years at 7:30 a.m.”

What he loves about being a principal is “the spontaneity. Every day something different comes up.”

Administering a school also offers an opportunity to shape a whole person, he said. “You get to create a vision of an entire community.”

The former principal, Galt resident Jude Mikal, took another assignment in Sacramento.

Since he already had a job he loved – teaching and coaching cross-country at Christian Brothers High School – Poggi was relaxed when he fielded questions from the interview committee about how he would handle various situations that can crop up at a prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.

Poggi joked he was hired at Mount St. Mary’s School because he is “young and dumb and able to lift my own furniture.”

Poggi also hopes to lift enrollment. He’d like to have 250 students at the school in a county where other schools are losing enrollment. It’s possible because the parish is growing, he said.

The school was started in 1859 by the Sisters of Mercy to teach the children of miners. An Irish order, the last two nuns left in 2001.

The school, Kneepkens said, is one of the oldest Catholic schools in continuous operation. Some say it is the oldest continuing Catholic school west of the Mississippi River.

“I wasn’t around so I can’t attest to it personally,” Kneepkens quipped.


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