Catholic education ‘a gift,’ Holmdel’s new leader says

By John Spinelli | Correspondent

Margaret Kane is no stranger to the St. John Vianney High School community. For more than a decade, she has been an educator in the Holmdel school, teaching English, fine arts and social studies, and most recently served as assistant principal. She now looks forward to beginning the 2020-2021 academic year as the school’s principal.

“My job is a vocation,” she said. “Being a teacher and an assistant principal in St. John Vianney High School has prepared me for this new role … and I look forward to continuing to learn in the coming years.”

Kane is a product of Catholic education, and she says that had a tremendous role in her own faith formation.

“Catholic education, with our shared values and faith, fosters a community that you cannot find anywhere else,” she said. “It creates a community that runs through generations of families.”

Kane’s history in educational leadership includes having earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from St. Francis College, Brooklyn, N.Y., and a master’s degree in school leadership and administration from Georgian Court University, Lakewood.

As a principal, she was recognized with a New Jersey Standard Certificate and also holds level three catechetical certification from Notre Dame University, South Bend, Ind.

Kane is a member of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel. She and her husband of 22 years, Danny, are the parents of three children, Bridget and Cathleen, SJV graduates who are now in college, and Brendan, an SJV junior.

Kane acknowledged that St. John Vianney – like other schools in the Diocese – has been working to be as ready and adaptable as possible about reopening during COVID-19.

“This coming year will present new challenges,” she said. “Yet, I know that the faculty, staff, students and families are prepared. We have invested in improving our technological infrastructure to ensure that our students and parents have a choice in the learning experience. I am excited to continue to work with our faculty as we are training on new programs.”


St. Charles Borromeo School familiar school turf for Cynthia Smith

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

Cynthia Smith is happy to return to familiar territory as the new principal of St. Charles Borromeo School, Cinnaminson. It happens to be where she began her career in education as a teacher more than 30 years ago.

“This is a homecoming of sorts,” said Smith, who joined the faculty in 1984, and for three years, served as a fifth-grade general education classroom teacher, math coordinator and grade-level liturgy committee chairwoman.

“I welcome the opportunity to get to know the faith community of St. Charles Borromeo and working with Father Dan Kirk [parish pastor] and the dedicated faculty and staff to promote the spiritual and educational development of each child,” she said.

Smith’s previous educational experience in the Diocese of Trenton includes serving as principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Maple Shade, from 2018 until June. Prior to that, she taught in Camden public schools for 28 years and for a year in a public school in Collingswood. She also has served as an instructional coach for the New Jersey Education Association, as a teacher mentor and as student teaching supervisor for Rutgers University.

Reflecting on the value of Catholic education, Smith said Catholic school students “become instruments of God’s grace in their own families and communities.

“In addition to academics, Catholic schools teach lessons about life, faith and instill moral values,” said Smith, who holds a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Delaware, Newark, Del., where she majored in elementary education with a minor in psychology.

In Rowan University, Glassboro, she pursued graduate work in math, science and technology through an Eisenhower Grant, and from Wilmington University, Wilmington, Del., she earned a master of education in school leadership. Her professional affiliations include the National Catholic Educational Association; National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the National Education Association/New Jersey Education Association/Camden Education Association.

Smith and her husband of two years have united as a blended family with four adult children. They are members of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Collingswood.

Looking ahead to the school year during the coronavirus pandemic, she said, “Our children’s social and emotional health is as crucial as their academic achievement during these unsettling times. Providing structured, interactive lessons will be a priority if we must provide remote instruction at some point.”


St. Dominic School welcomes longtime educator to new role

By Matt Becker | Digital and Social Media Coordinator

After serving 16 years as an educator and assistant principal in St. Dominic School, Brick, Elizabeth Tonkovich is ready to hit the ground running in her new role as principal.

“St. Dominic School’s atmosphere is welcoming and inclusive. This community of faith-filled students witnesses daily the modeling of kindness, respect and teamwork. Students meet rigorous academic challenges while being reassured that best effort is truly what our Lord Jesus seeks,” she said.

Tonkovich’s appreciation for Catholic education and the community is rooted in her own upbringing. She graduated from St. Benedict School and St. John Vianney High School, both Holmdel, and received a bachelor of science degree in business management from the University of Dayton, Ohio, which is a Catholic institution.

“The 16 years in Catholic education formed the person I am today. I often speak with my parents, who worked so hard to provide a Catholic education for me, of my gratitude for a faith-filled childhood,” she said.

She also holds a master of arts degree in teaching from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, and completed an accelerated master’s program from NJPSA/FEA EXCEL, Monroe.

Tonkovich said she is pleased to be so familiar with the culture and community in St. Dominic School, where she started more than a decade ago as a sixth-grade teacher, going on to teach everything from religion to advanced mathematics. She became vice principal in 2011, during which time she led the school’s efforts in receiving AdvancED accreditation (2015) and COGNIA accreditation (2020). She said she was proud to see the school designated as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2018.

Tonkovich admitted that the school day may look a bit different in the new academic year due to COVID-19. It’s her hope, however, that “with the guidance of our Lord, I will bring the school community through this unprecedented time of uncertainty.”

She said she is humbled by the opportunity to lead St. Dominic School and grateful for the dedicated teachers and staff, and that her main focus will be on providing students with a high-quality Catholic education.

“Answers to important questions cannot be found in the secular world. We must go back to the foundation of our faith and therein find the answers,” she said, reiterating that her goal is “to offer the opportunity for children, beginning at a young age, to be a part of an environment, wherein faith is the rock that each life is built upon, is nothing short of a gift.”