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HARRISBURG, PA – The Secretary for Education of the Diocese of Harrisburg, the Very Reverend Edward J. Quinlan, and the Board of Directors and Pastoral Members of Bishop McDevitt High School, today announced that James P. “Jim” Vail has been appointed the first President of Bishop McDevitt High School. Vail, a life-long Catholic with 40 years’ experience in Catholic education, including 30 years in high school administration, will begin his tenure on June 30, 2018.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I convey our universal pleasure to have Mr. Jim Vail become part of our amazing Bishop McDevitt High School family and community,” said John F. Duggan, the Board Chair. “Bishop McDevitt has a 100-year tradition of excellence and Jim Vail’s experience and strong leadership will ensure that our mission and all we value in Catholic education will continue to thrive.  We are confident that Jim Vail will build upon the dynamic energy that has made Bishop McDevitt a shining example of a Catholic, college-preparatory, coeducational school that serves students of diverse intellectual, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds.”

In May, the Board announced the school would move to a President-Principal model of leadership after long-time McDevitt Principal Sister Mary Anne Bednar said she would step down as principal. This structure, which has emerged as a national model of success, divides the multiple administrative roles and responsibilities of a high school’s leadership between two individuals. Cathy Pagliaro, Bishop McDevitt’s Vice Principal for Academics, will continue to serve as interim principal.

The Board selected Vail after a national search and his appointment is approved by the Diocese of Harrisburg’s Office for Education. He has served as a principal or president in several high schools throughout the country where his leadership has focused on strong academic curriculums and vibrant campus ministries while also increasing enrollments and overseeing capital improvements. Vail recently completed six years on the Leadership Advisory Council and as the PA and NJ representative to the Executive Committee of the Secondary Department of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

“Jim Vail brings to Central Pennsylvania’s Bishop McDevitt a national view of Catholic education and excellence combined with a respect for hometown traditions and commitment to Catholic identity,” said Father Quinlan. “The Diocese of Harrisburg welcomes Jim and his wife, Colette, to our community and we look forward to their engagement in our Catholic education system.”

In accepting his appointment, Vail said: “Bishop McDevitt High School is already an impressive school and a call awakened within me to seek to be of its service. I am most awed by the deep traditions the school community holds dear, as witnessed by the devoted service of Sister Mary Anne, and the tremendous generosity of its stewards. Bishop McDevitt has all the pieces for enhancing its greatness: a dedicated faculty and staff, challenging program, talented students, world-class campus, the active support of the Diocese and parishes, and a committed and engaged alumni. I am humbled and honored to build on this legacy and become part of this great school and community.”

A native of Fairfield, Connecticut, Vail began his career as a teacher, coach, and Vice Principal at Saint Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, CT. He was inducted into the school’s Circle of Honor/Hall of Fame in 2014. He then moved to La Crosse, WI where he served as the Principal of Aquinas High School. While there, enrollment grew by 32%, the curriculum was expanded, and the school was supported by $12,000,000 of stewardship. Vail oversaw the establishment of a middle school division in the facility and spearheaded the design and construction of a 22,000 square foot addition including classrooms, gymnasium, and music conservatory. He received the school’s Franciscan Service Award/ Hall of Fame in 2016.

Most recently Vail served for twenty years as the President of Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey. During his tenure, the school’s enrollment grew by 92% from 838 to 1601, to become one of the largest and most diverse Catholic schools in the nation. All aspects of the curriculum and operations were overhauled, including $30,000,000 of capital/ technology projects and renovations, while keeping tuition increases an average of less than $200 year during his administration. Vail also worked to enhance the Catholic identity at the school with a vibrant campus ministry, including in-depth retreat offerings and community service programs. Vail developed a full partnership with a prestigious private high school in Beijing, China, which sends many students to Paramus Catholic for a one-year experience. Vail is most proud of the unity, spirit, creativity, and loyalty of its students.

Vail earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Fairfield University with 30 additional credits in the Catholic School Administration at Boston College. He says he is most proud to have spent every year of his life since age 5 in Catholic schools as a student or staff member. He has presented at numerous NCEA conventions and conferences, including serving as a panelist this year on The Virtual Classroom and also the ethics of high school sports at The Soul of Youth Sports Conference, and has been published in its Momentum magazine.

He is married to another career-long Catholic educator, Colette Vail, who will serve as the new Principal of Saint Catherine Labouré School. They are both avid travelers, having toured over 120 countries. His greatest hobby, though, is following the great successes of the 14,000 students he has thus far been honored to serve.

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