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Growth, innovation top priorities for superintendent

An educator who started his career teaching at Bishop Machebeuf High School 10 years ago is making his way back to Denver to serve as superintendent of the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools.

Kevin Kijewski, 33, a Michigan native who taught economics, politics and history at Bishop Machebeuf from 2005-2007 will officially begin as superintendent July 1. Kijewski (pronounced Kiev-ski) will replace Richard Thompson who retired at the end of February after 14 years in the position.

“I see a lot of opportunity here,” Kijewski told the Denver Catholic while visiting the Mile High City Feb. 26 in advance of moving here in June with his wife Ashley. “The Archdiocese of Denver is known for its Catholicity. Archbishop (Charles) Chaput left it in great condition and Archbishop (Samuel) Aquila has carried that on.”

Kijewski is currently serving under Archbishop Chaput, archbishop of Denver 1997-2011, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as associate superintendent of secondary schools. Philadelphia has 17 high schools, educating some 14,000 secondary students. In the Archdiocese of Denver, he will head up 35 elementary schools and two high schools, representing a student body of nearly 11,000.

“Kevin brings a fresh perspective and great enthusiasm to our Catholic schools’ team,” said Father Randy Dollins, vicar general and moderator of the curia. “Our school system is facing some difficult challenges. We were looking for someone who could help us change the game.”

Kijewski said his number one priority will be growing the Catholic school system in the archdiocese.

“Catholic schools are the premier teaching center for the Church,” he said, and “innovation, growth and leadership” will be the three levers of his tenure.

Also among his priorities are specifically increasing the Hispanic enrollment in schools, continued responsible fiscal management, meeting the schools’ funding needs, and strategic investments and philanthropy.

“We can do things in a brand new way,” he said. “There is ‘no box’ anymore. We have to expect a culture of growth.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila agreed, saying, “His vision for Catholic schools is right in line with my vision.”

Catholic education exists to educate children in the faith, Kijewski explained, and to develop the whole person.

“The predominant reason (Catholic schools exist) is to get kids to heaven,” he said, “We’re not just a collection of buildings with crucifixes on the walls.”

They are “sacred places” that aim to develop adults that raise families, and succeed in rewarding careers.

He said his philosophy could be summed up as “heaven first, Harvard second and hoops a distance third.”

Kijewski originally landed at Bishop Machebeuf in 2005 while participating in the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program.

“I was the first ACE teacher here,” he explained. “Now there are 49 ACE alums in Denver schools, the third biggest group of ACE alums.”

Through ACE, teachers and administrators serve in a select Catholic school for two years, and during that time complete a curriculum that results in a master’s in education from Notre Dame. While at Bishop Machebeuf, he prepared an application that obtained the school a place on the Catholic High School Honor Roll, as well as named it among Denver’s Top 15 High Schools as ranked by 5280 magazine.

Kijewski holds a doctor of jurisprudence degree from Michigan State University and worked as an attorney in the Detroit metro area for three years before taking the position in Philadelphia in 2013. He previously served as the dean of business administration and professor of economics at Baker College in Allen Park, Mich., and taught economics, politics and legal courses at Northwood University and Lansing Community College. He also holds a bachelor of art degree in American history from the University of Detroit and a master’s in economics from Walsh College in Troy, Mich.

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