After an announcement in early January that the president of St. John’s Catholic Prep (SJCP) will resign this summer, the school has quickly chosen its current principal, Will Knotek, to step into a new leadership role.
SJCP plans to change its leadership model and install Knotek as the Head of School, according to school officials. There will no longer be a president or principal; Knotek will oversee all aspects of SJCP operations and will begin the role on July 1. He takes over from Thomas Powell, who served as president of SJCP for six years.
In a phone call with the News-Post, Knotek said some changes at the administration level will need to be made in order to account for the new leadership model, but he believes the transition will be seamless.
There was mutual interest on both his part and from the school’s Board of Trustees to move him into this position, Knotek said.
“The school has really become a second home ... following in the footsteps of Dr. Powell — he has done such an amazing job setting the school up to where it is at this point — that I just feel like it’s now my time to move the school forward,” he said.
In a statement, Trustee Pat Crowley, who chaired the search committee, said Knotek was a natural fit.
“While he has some large shoes to fill, it was apparent during the search process that Will possesses a genuine love for Saint John’s Catholic Prep, maturity and energy that will serve the school well. He has earned the respect of his colleagues through his hard work and dedication. Saint John’s is in good hands, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds,” he said.
When asked his vision for the school, Knotek said first and foremost, he wants to make sure SJCP continues to focus on its primary mission of serving students and educating them in a holistic manner.
“As the only Catholic [high] school in Frederick County, I think we really need to find ways to make us distinctive ... I don’t want to be an option. I want to be the choice of the families not only in Frederick County, but also in surrounding counties,” he said. “I think we have to continue to advance our academic programs, advance the things that we have really done so well, already...but also remain committed to who we are as a school.”
The school also announced that it will expand its hybrid model to bring students in for an extra day each week, and St. John’s presently plans to reopen in full for the 2021-2022 school year.
“We see in our county and our state that things are moving in the right direction. We see the positivity rates are going down, we have the rollout of the vaccination ... ideally we’re going to be moving away from [virtual learning],” Knotek said. “We know that students learn best at school, and we’re going to make every effort to make sure that we don’t need virtual instruction on a regular basis.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that St. John's Catholic Prep was the only Catholic school in Frederick County. It is the only Catholic high school in the county.