Local News Archive
Print Issue: April 6, 1995
Sister Gear Named Principal Of Archbishop Donnellan School
By Kathi Stearns, Staff Writer
LILBURN--After building a national school of excellence at St. John Neumann Regional School, Lilburn, Sister Dawn Gear, GNSH, has been named principal of the Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan School which is scheduled to open in the fall of 1996.
For the last nine years Sister Gear has served as founding principal of St. John Neumann, the last Catholic school built in the archdiocese. Sister Gear will continue to serve as principal until the end of the 1995-96 school year. She announced her decision 15 months in advance after what she descries as much prayer and discernment.
I believe that I have done all I can for St. John Neumann, said Sister Gear. I have a deep love and respect for the students, faculty, staff and parents of this community. It is my hope to share these experiences at the Donnellan School. This will be a new opportunity where all that has happened at St. Johns can be introduced, can flourish and can bear fruit in another school.
St. John Neumann was founded in 1986 to serve the elementary school needs of Catholic families in the northeastern suburbs of metropolitan Atlanta. From an initial enrollment of 160 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, the school has grown to its current enrollment of 617 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
Under Sister Gears leadership the school earned accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1990. In only its eighth year of existence St. John Neumann was named a national school of excellence by the U.S. Department of Education in 1994.
After 10 years its time for a change for them and me, Sister Gear said. A new administration is needed to initiate new ideas and to take the school in different directions.
She is one of the best school administrators we have in the diocese, said Msgr. Edward Dillon, vicar general of the archdiocese and a board member of the Donnellan School. Im delighted she has agreed to take on this particular challenge. I know the (Donnellan) school will be in good hands.
Sister Gear believes that the Catholic identity she hopes to establish at the Donnellan School will become the strength of the school. She believes in leading by example.
At St. Johns she and her students have adopted families, visited St. Lukes soup kitchen in Atlanta and worked with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Contributions have been made to Florida hurricane victims, to the flood victims in Albany to Cedartown residents and to Birthright.
Kids can learn academics anywhere but our Catholic schools have more to offer than just academics, Sister Gear said. I think we offer good academics but we also teach love of God and love of neighbor. We have to practice what we preach.
A graduate of DYouville College in Buffalo, N.Y. Sister Gear received a masters degree in education in 1979 and a specialist degree in administration from Georgia State University in 1989.
Taught in Catholic schools herself in Mont Clare, Penn., where she grew up, Sister Gear worked in elementary schools for 14 years before coming to St. Pius X High School, in 1979. A teacher for five years in Jackson Heights, N.Y., for four years in Philadelphia and for four years at Christ the King in Atlanta, she has taught every grade except first. Sister Gear taught at St. Pius for three years before becoming the assistant dean of students in 1982.
She has served in a variety of positions for the Atlanta Conference of Sisters from 1979 to 1985 including a three-year term as president. She is also a former member of the Archdiocesan Board of Education, serving as vice president for the 1990-91 academic year. Sister gear is currently a member of the Archdiocesan Committee for the Advancement of Catholic Schools.
Sister Rita Marie Raffaele, GNSH, assistant principal at St. John Neumann, has also announced her decision to become Sister Dawns administrative assistant at the Donnellan School.
Defined as an independent, non-parochial Catholic grade school, the Donnellan School will operate on a cost of education basis, that is, tuition will cover the actual cost of educating a child.
Parishes will not be responsible for subsidizing the school. The board anticipates the tuition for the 1996 academic year to be in the range of $6,000 to $6,500 when the school opens in a year and a half. However, planning is geared to have an unusually low student-teacher ratio of 13 to 15-1.
The Donnellan School building is located at 4820 Long Island Drive in Sandy Springs and is the present facility of the Atlanta International School.
The school was named for Atlantas second archbishop, who served the archdiocese for 19 years before his death in October 1987.
I am so happy to lead a school that bears his name and will have his spirit of generosity, Sister Gear said. My students are going to know who Archbishop Donnellan was and what he did for Catholic education.
Currently the board of trustees of the Donnellan School is formulating a mission statement and developing information packets about the school. Applications are not yet available. For further information call the Donnellan School at 252-0900.