Msgr. McInerny heads back to high school again to lead BE

Msgr. Lawrence B. McInerny speaks at Bishop England High School on May 7. He will lead the Lowcountry institution for the 2010-2011 academic year. (Miscellany/Deirdre C. Mays)
Msgr. Lawrence B. McInerny speaks at Bishop England High School on May 7. He will lead the Lowcountry institution for the 2010-2011 academic year. (Miscellany/Deirdre C. Mays)
DANIEL ISLAND—A familiar face is back at Bishop England High School and chances are he knows your mama, so you’d better behave.

Msgr. Lawrence B. McInerny will take the helm of his alma mater for the 2010-2011 academic year. He is replacing David Held until a new principal is found.

The pastor of Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island is a 1969 graduate, former teacher and rector of Bishop England. His appointment was announced May 6 by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, as was the leadership team of Nancy Heath, academic dean; Glenn Hutto, assistant principal; and Kit Brownell, director of admissions.

That day, Msgr. McInerny visited the school to talk to some of its student leaders.

Sitting around a table with seven teens, he quickly put the group at ease by joshing and reminiscing about classes, clubs and homework. They soon found out he had taught some of their parents or had graduated with their relatives. One girl said her mom told her to say hi to him.

Msgr. McInerny asked the group to tell him about themselves, what they enjoyed about BE and what they thought needed improvement. The group agreed that they liked the sports programs and the sense of community they experienced. The only dislikes were minor, such as rules about not wearing plastic bracelets and not drinking Gatorade.

Their new administrator could relate.

“I don’t consider myself a model student but I only had one demerit in school and that was because I didn’t have uniform socks on one day,” Msgr. McInerny said.

His anecdotes were turned into questions for the students. When asked what they thought of the workload, the group agreed it was difficult but one student said he could appreciate that because it would help him get into a better college. Another said he liked how alumni still love the school and how it has a strong identity in the Lowcountry.

“It’s a sense of belonging and we all need that,” Msgr. McInerny said.

Though he was surprised Bishop Guglielmone asked him to take the position, Msgr. McInerny, who is on the principal search committee, said it made sense.

“Uncertainty is never good and I guess with me they know what they are dealing with,” he said in an interview.

He told the students this is the fourth time he’s gone back to high school. He graduated in 1969, he taught there as a seminarian in 1975, he went back in 1979 to finish up the year for a teacher who left early, and served as rector from 1990 to 2001 through the school’s relocation from peninsular Charleston to Daniel Island.

The rector hopes to have a daily presence during school hours as much as possible. Though he will still have the weighty responsibility of a parish, he is looking forward to the year.

“I think it’s challenging me, pulling me out of my comfort zone,” he said.

Parishioners of Stella Maris will not have to worry about the additional assignment, however, because he has a parochial vicar, Father Richard B. Tomlinson.

He said his administrative approach will be one of learning, like his students, and depending heavily on the leadership team.

“I actually taught Kit in her senior year,” he said of the admissions director.

His goal is to listen, to get a picture of the school and see where he can support and advance the mission.

As the monsignor transitions in after June 30, Held will move on to become president of Mount de Sales Academy, a Catholic, college preparatory school sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in Macon, Ga. The outgoing principal said he will take with him the strong sense of community and commitment to faculty and students that he formed at Bishop England.

“I think we lived up to our mission of mutual respect for one another and Gospel values,” he said in an interview. “The tradition of academic excellence and high standards sets us apart. We have a great faculty and great kids. Life is a series of chapters and adventures, and I treasure the chapter at Bishop England.”