MILWAUKEE — Paul Gessner, former assistant principal at Rufus King High School, Milwaukee, will become head of school at St. Joan Antida High School on Feb. 13.

Gessner replaces Cindy Marino who had served the school in that capacity for the last seven years.gessnerPaul Gessner

“I think (Gessner) has the gift to be able to help us continue building the curriculum and growing the curriculum and helping us to create the best possibility for young women, urban young women,” Sister of Charity of St. Joan Antida Elizabeth Weber said. “He’s done some phenomenal kinds of program development there (Rufus King High School) as far as helping to expand their international baccalaureate.”

In a press release, Gessner said he’s excited to be moving the school into its “next phase.”

“I have worked tirelessly to ensure a quality, rigorous academic experience for the young people of Milwaukee,” Gessner said. “I am eager to bring my experiences and talents to the role of head of school at St. Joan Antida.”

Sr. Elizabeth, a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida provincial team, stressed that Gessner’s “urban” background – he spent 15 years at Rufus King – will be beneficial to the school.

“With his urban experience, he has a great deal of experience in working with urban youth and our kids are, at St. Joan’s, very much represent the city of Milwaukee,” Sr. Elizabeth said of the all-girls school with an enrollment of 277.

According to Sr. Elizabeth, Marino informed them about a year ago that she would resign at the end of 2011.

“She felt she wanted to look for other opportunities for herself and is currently doing that,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “She was kind enough to stay on through January so we had time to find someone to take her place.”

Sr. Elizabeth said Marino made decisions based on what was best for the students.

“Cindy had a real passion for the girls,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “I always teased her, I said, ‘On your tombstone it’s going to say It’s All About The Girls.’”

Sr. Elizabeth said Marino was instrumental in helping the school get new science and computer labs.

“She had a real vision and real passion for urban, young women,” Sr. Elizabeth said.

The search for a new head of school started last summer.

“We were not going to hire just to hire,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “We didn’t want to be forced into just hiring anyone.”

Sr. Elizabeth said they were impressed with Gessner.

“We were in the interviewing process and we just found his skill set to be very compatible with what we’re looking for,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “Being able to integrate his faith life into his work life, which was something he said he hadn’t had an opportunity to do in public school.”

In a joint statement, the search committee chairs said Gessner is right for the school

“With a track record of success at Rufus King High School, a passionate belief that all students can achieve success at high academic levels, and a faith-driven spirit, Paul brings the qualities that are most critical for St. Joan Antida High School at this particular time,” the statement said.

Entering the position in the middle of the school year is an opportunity, according to Sr. Elizabeth.

“It’s a real opportunity for Paul to stand back and do some learning and some evaluating about things,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “This provides a learning curve time for him.”

Sr. Elizabeth said Gessner, a member of St. Matthias Parish, Milwaukee, hasn’t wasted any time since accepting the position, noting he’s been taking personal days to come to St. Joan Antida on Fridays to familiarize himself with the school and position.