PORTAGE PARK — After 26 years at the helm of St. Patrick High School, Principal Joseph Schmidt will step down July 1 and be replaced by Jon Baffico, an assistant principal at a middle school in a far northwest suburb.
Schmidt will become president of school, replacing Brother Konrad Diebold, who is retiring. Diebold, a member of the Christian Brothers religious order, began teaching at St. Patrick in 1961 and served as principal from 1983 to 1987.
Baffico was picked because of his high-energy, outgoing style of leadership, Schmidt said.
"He is young and ambitious," Schmidt said. "He's a good listener, and he'll be good with the students and parents."
Schmidt, who began teaching at St. Patrick in 1967, was the first principal at the now-152-year-old, all-boys Catholic high school who was not a member of the Christian Brothers religious order.
As president, Schmidt said he will work with the school's 25-member board of trustees to set policy for the school and raise money to provide financial assistance and academic scholarships to St. Patrick students. Tuition at the school near Belmont and Austin avenues is approximately $10,000 annually, Schmidt said.
As president, Schmidt said he would remain a part of the students' lives.
"I'll bring the same passion to the president's office as I did as principal," Schmidt said.
Baffico has been assistant principal at Algonquin Middle School in Algonquin since 2009. From From 1996 to 2009, Baffico taught math at Carmel High School in Mundelein, which is a co-ed Catholic school.
Baffico said he wanted to return to a Catholic high school, making St. Patrick a natural fit.
"St. Patrick is education utopia," Baffico said, adding that he was looking forward to not only educating the students but also shaping them as men.
Married with three daughters ranging in age from 3 to 8, Baffico also coached volleyball and basketball at Carmel and is a member of the board at St. Francis De Sales Catholic School in Lake Zurich.
Baffico said he expected his biggest challenge will be to address declining enrollment at St. Patrick, which, like with most Catholic schools in Chicago, is struggling to attract students.
St. Patrick will benefit from Baffico's "fresh eyes," Schmidt said.
"It is a positive that he's coming in from the outside," Schmidt said. "It's a plus."
Baffico was highly recommended by the administration at Carmel, and impressed St. Patrick teachers when he coached against them, Schmidt said.
"Everyone is very much a family here," Schmidt said. "We think Jon will fit right in."