David Mueller joined Archbishop McNicholas High School as principal in 2018 after over 40 years as a Catholic school educator. It took just one Friday night football game for him to grasp what makes Mt. Washington’s coed Catholic high school and the community that surrounds it special.

“I knew I had wandered into a place that really had a tradition,” Mueller says, “a really strong historical legacy that people were proud of and a consciousness that there’s a gift of good relationships and community here.”

In his first year as principal, the quality of everyone in the McNicholas family—from the faculty and staff to the students and alumni—inspired him. Now, in his second year, he and the school are creating new ways to enlighten students and better prepare them for their eventual careers.

McNicholas’ commitment to STEAM—which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics—education encourages its teachers to engage students through projects that combine aspects of the five disciplines. One application of this is the school’s involvement with the INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, which promotes IT careers among high school students through camps, competitions, internships and events like its annual TechOlympics. This past year, McNicholas placed second out of 50 area schools for winning the most INTERalliance competitions.

This coming school year will feature a scheduling tweak that spreads one day’s worth of classes across Thursday and Friday of each week. The time not allotted to traditional classes will be used for things like “explore” periods, where students and teachers will join in different combinations to learn about life skills, public speaking, service opportunities and other topics.

“It gives an opportunity for teachers who have special interests to put those interests out there and try to match those up with students who would be interested in that,” explains Mueller. He hopes the potential of linking the explore periods with other classwork will lead to unique educational experiences for the students.

A hallmark of Catholic schools is the intersection of academics and service. McNicholas stays true to that tradition through programs for its own students and others in Greater Cincinnati.

The high school’s SAIL (Support and Accommodations for Identified Learners) program brings in intervention specialists who assist McNicholas students with special learning needs through attentive tutoring and assistive technology.

“This has become, I think, a real calling card for McNick,” Mueller says. “We’re finding more and more people are coming to the school because of the success rate of our intervention specialists.”

As for serving the Cincinnati community, McNicholas is now an EdChoice school, which is a state program that provides scholarships to esteemed private schools for low-income students at underperforming public schools.

That’s another way McNicholas leads by example, something Mueller sees reflected in his students throughout the school year when they run religious retreats for their peers and summer day camps for younger, underprivileged children. It goes to show the traditions Mueller observed during that Friday night football game run deep and represent a rich culture that will continue to inspire him as principal. 




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