Joan Dollinger ready to start career as Assumption principal
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Joan Dollinger is right where she wants to be.
The Assumption Regional Catholic School principal begins her first year this September following career stops that included Our Lady Star of the Sea in Cape May, St. Nicholas School in Egg Harbor City and St. Mary by-the-Sea Retreat House in Cape May.
“I get to reconnect with the St. Nicholas families whose children are here,” she said July 10 in her office.
The St. Nicholas School closed because of sagging attendance. However, St. Nicholas Church is part of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish that Assumption Church belongs to.
Dollinger replaces former principal Mary Ellen Schurtz, who retired in June.
while she worked as an administrator at St. Mary by-the-Sea, Dollinger said, she felt God’s nudge.
She had been at the summer seaside resort for eight years when she went on a five-day silent prayer retreat in April.
“I was open if something were to come along,” she said.
A few weeks later a friend told her about an advertisement for the principal’s opening at Assumption and suggested she apply for it.
Dollinger listened and she was offered the job.
“I am blessed to be offered the position,” she said.
Dollinger feels that Assumption offers children a good education in the right building, a 10-year campus.
“I think there is nothing better than for a child to know everybody else in the building,” she said of Assumption’s 400 students and the 25 or so members of its faculty.
At night Dollinger keeps herself busy matching names and faces with pictures of the school’s children. She has about a month and a half remaining to learn all their names.
“I take a different class every night,” she said, a smile growing on her face. “I try to memorize every name. To be able to know a child is a great difference. You know the family, the history. You will be in a relationship with them.”
Dollinger said it’s important for a principal to know the children and help them through the journey of their education.
At a larger school, the very smart and the troubled students are known by everyone, Dollinger said. Those in the middle students — the great majority — get lost.
But that won’t happen at Assumption, she said.
“The greatest gift is to watch the students unfold,” she said. “I hope to listen, watch and have conversation with them.”
Dollinger is married to Craig Durstewitz and has lived with him in Cape May since 1987. They have three grown children, Matthew, Tim and Elizabeth.
“We have worked well together,” she said. “I pinch myself every day.”
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