New School Leaders Reflect on God’s Mercy

By Glenda Meekins

The Diocese of Orlando welcomes four new principals and a new high school president, all with Catholic values and academic expertise that will enrich the lives of students this new school year that begins August 10. We profile their professional experience and accomplishments. Also, in light of the Jubilee of Mercy, we ask them to share their experiences of God’s mercy and how they strive to live out the call to be merciful.

RON PAGANO, New Principal, Basilica School of St. Paul, Daytona Beach

A former student of the Basilica School of St. Paul, Ron Pagano returns with 36 years of experience in education. Pagano has received numerous educational recognitions and awards from the state of Florida including Literacy Leader of the Year and Thespian Principal of the Year. He was also chosen Principal of the Year in 1997 and 2006 in Volusia County.

Pagano holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from the University of Florida and earned his Master of Arts in Educational Supervision and Administration from Nova Southeastern University. He was also named the David Thomas Child Advocate of the Year in 2013.

On the Year of Mercy he explains: “The Year of Mercy means love and how I can express that love through my faith, in my community, in my church, and in my day to day workings. To help others experience God’s mercy, I will be encouraging our students and faculty to use our core values of seeking, persisting, exceling, loving and serving, in our day to day mission.  I think the best way to show mercy to others is to be good role models through love, through my generosity, through my kindness.”

ERNEST HERRINGTON, Jr., New Principal, Melbourne Central Catholic High School, Melbourne

Ernest Herrington comes to the Diocese of Orlando with 30 years of experience, 27 of those in Catholic schools in both the St. Augustine and Orlando dioceses. Herrington was founder of St. Francis Catholic Academy in Gainesville. During his 13 years there, the school achieved the highest SAT, ACT and PSAT scores in the Diocese of St. Augustine. He is known as an innovator for his implementation of the first 1:1 MacBook program in the Diocese of St. Augustine, leading partner schools to adopt the use of iPads. MCC President Mike Burke said Herrington will “help to launch MCC into a new and exciting era.”

For the past 14 years he served as interim principal, assistant principal, Social Studies Department Chair, teacher and coach at MCC. Herrington earned his Bachelor of Arts in History and Master of Arts in Social Studies Education from SUNY Stony Brook, and a master’s from the University of Central Florida in educational leadership.

On the Year of Mercy: “The Year of Mercy means living mercy out by action, faith, hope and love… exhibiting love to everyone you meet. As Pope Francis said, ‘Even to those on the fringes of society, no matter what those fringes are.’” Every day we experience God’s mercy by the great things that happen to us.”

STEVEN A. RANIERI, New President, Santa Fe Catholic High School, Lakeland

Steven Ranieri comes with a wealth of knowledge in institutional advancement. Prior to serving at Santa Fe Catholic, Ranieri was Director of Development for Chatfield College and Director of Institutional Advancement for two Catholic high schools in Ohio. Ranieri also has vast experience in alumni relations and marketing, having served in a number of colleges and universities, including University of South Florida and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Most recently, he served as Chief Development Officer for Melbourne Central Catholic High School.

He has educated at St. Thomas University in Miami, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Athletic Administration, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he graduated with a Master of Art in Public Administration.  Ranieri has spent his career in the field of education. He looks forward to continuing his commitment to Catholic education.

On the Year of Mercy: “To me the Year of Mercy is an awakening.  It’s a very strong call for me to recognize God’s mercy in my life. With that comes the responsibility to share that with others. Especially over the past six or eight months, I have had an inner peace that I have never before experienced and to me that is God’s love, God’s mercy. I’ve recognized God’s mercy more apparent in my life, and through habits I have formed, I have become a more caring, a more loving individual in my interactions.”

JULIE HARRIS, Interim Principal at Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, Merritt Island

Julie Harris has served at the school since 1985, after graduating from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. She has also earned a Master of Science in Counseling from Barry University. She first served at the school as a P.E. and fourth grade teacher. In 1991, she taught Social Studies to Divine Mercy’s middle school students. In 2000, she served as interim principal and for the past 14 years she has served as Director of Student Services/Counseling. Originally intending to work for the Space Center when she graduated, she said, “God led me to Divine Mercy and I’ve been there ever since.”

On the Year of Mercy: “It’s another invitation to reestablish and reignite my relationship with God. Every single day offers a new opportunity for me to do the right thing and really seize opportunities that I may let go by on other days. I try to pause just a little bit more, to be a little more present to others in need, to put their needs ahead of mine. I can never be about the business of being too busy. I really have to just stop and pause.”

STEPHEN DOLE, New Principal, Lourdes Academy, Daytona Beach

Relocating from LaSalle Institute in New York, Stephen Dole, the new principal at Lourdes Academy in Daytona Beach, has served as a paraprofessional, middle school and high school religion and history teacher and an athletic director. He is currently working on his master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Notre Dame. Dole has a Bachelor of Science in History from Sienna College and a Bachelor of Art in Adolescent Education from the College of St. Rose, both in Albany.

On the Year of Mercy: “It’s an opportunity for us to show our actions to God. It’s really about patience and the chance to never pass judgement because you don’t know what’s going on in somebody’s life and you just have to be there for them. Mercy starts by making sure that I set a good example for the students, as well as all the other teachers, so that we can model what we expect from the students.”