| Principals change
at St. Philip Neri
New assignment: Principal, St. Philip Neri School, Alameda
Last assignment: Third-grade teacher, Corpus Christi School, Piedmont
When Jessica Murray's younger daughter graduates from the Eighth Grade at Corpus Christi School, it will also be graduation day, in a way, for Murray, too.
After 11 years of teaching Third Grade at the Piedmont school — and after three years of reflecting on a move — Murray will become principal at St. Philip Neri School in Alameda, where in that "wonderful community," she has found "the right fit at the right time."
At St. Philip Neri, she is going to what she sees as "a very strong community" united in the "belief the school and family together educate the whole child, to grow spiritually, academically and physically."
Murray, a graduate in economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, was graduated with a master's in business administration degree in international management from Golden Gate University. In her first career, as an international trade consultant, she traveled across Latin America, working for both the public and private sectors.
When her two daughters were born, she stayed home with them. "I was so involved in their preschool," she said. Her experience working with young children left her saying, "This is so fun."
When her children went to school, so did she. She received a teaching credential from the University of California, Berkeley.
She had found her calling. She arrived at Corpus Christi School in 2002.
"I loved it from the second I walked into the classroom," she said.
Third-graders, she said, are wonderful students. "They're really ready to explore the world, willing to please," she said. "Their capabilities are just beginning to take off."
One way the third-graders grow is word by word.
"We do a lot of writing," Murray said. In preparation for the Third Grade Authors' Fair at the end of the school year, the young writers prepare 18 pieces of writing. They create autobiographies, and put them on poster board. On the night of the fair, they read selected pieces from a portfolio that includes a descriptive paragraph of a family memory, to a five-paragraph essay, to poetry to reflections on faith.
"They can see the growth from the beginning of the year to the end," she said. "Their personalities really come out in their writing,"
Third-graders also prepare a time capsule, including letters to their future selves. The time capsules are officially sealed with their graduation year, and stored carefully. When they reach eighth-grade, they open them with Murray.
She loves the classroom so much, it took three years of reflection to leave it. She said the decision to leave the classroom for administration was difficult, but with classroom experience in addition to her MBA, she was ready.
"It seems like my two worlds are meeting at a very opportune place," she said.
Last assignment: Principal, St. Philip Neri School, Alameda
The last two years have been a busy time for Janis Allocco. She became principal of St. Philip Neri School in July 2011, just a few months before her fall wedding.
"It's been a great experience," Janis Allocco said of the two years she has served as principal of St. Philip Neri School of Alameda. She praised the "wonderful faculty and staff."
"It's a great community," she said. "It's just far from home."
Being closer to home in Clayton has become more important over these two years. Allocco is the mother of a 10-month-son. Her immediate plan is "to watch my baby grow up."
The long hours at school, coupled with the challenging commute, helped her make the difficult decision to leave her first principalship.
"This is something I've been working toward," she said of the leadership role. "I never realized how much a baby would change your life."
She will look at opportunities closer to home. "I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to explore part-time work," she said.
Her husband is the junior varsity coach at De La Salle High School in Concord, and also coaches AAU basketball. Their son was in a gym at the age of 6 days.
There is coaching in Janis Allocco's background, too. She has coached freshman volleyball at Carondelet High School in Concord, and at Excel Basketball, which holds camps over the summer.
Before accepting the principal role at St. Philip Neri, she was vice principal and was seventh-grade homeroom teacher in addition to teaching sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science at St. Mary School, Walnut Creek. The graduate of Saint Mary's College began her student teaching there.
When she became principal at St. Philip Neri, Allocco told The Catholic Voice, "It's been a natural progression to step up to be a leader — to help youth, further educate youth and advocate for them, and help teachers teach for the 21st century."
Allocco's memorable moments at St. Philip Neri involve her work with the students. "Interacting with students on a daily basis has been fun," she said.
Her work with the student council has been rewarding. "It's been a joy to foster the leadership," she said.
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