St. Xavier names interim principal

Amy Sample

St. Xavier High School announced earlier this month that it has named Amy Sample interim principal for the 2020-2021 school year. She is the first woman to lead the school in its 156-year history.

She succeeds Francisco Espinosa, Jr., who served as the school’s principal for eight years. He resigned in March and has been named principal of Mount St. Joseph High School — sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers — in Baltimore, Md. 

Sample, the school’s 22nd principal, said being named interim principal of the boys’ school is “an incredible honor.”

“There’s a great tradition at St. Xavier and when paired with 156 years of Xaverian brotherhood it’s special,” she said. “St. Xavier is coming off great leadership with the late Perry Sangalli and principal Francisco Espinosa.”

Sample said she’s ready to take up the torch and is “definitely up to the challenge.”

Young men need to see “strong female leaders as well as strong male leaders,” she said. “I want us to get to the point one day when it’s not a big deal. It says a lot of our president and board of directors to move in this direction.”

Sample has taught English at St. Xavier, 1609 Poplar Level Road, since 2018 and is currently serving as the school’s assistant principal for studies, according to a press release from the school.

Sample said being chosen to lead the school over the next year will allow the school “enough time to find the right leader and give our new president (Paul Colistra) a chance to establish his leadership style.”

Sample came to the school after serving at Mercy Academy for 19 years, where she served primarily as a teacher, but also as assistant principal and principal. She is also a graduate of Mercy, where she was “trained by the best,” she added.

Paul Colistra — who was named president of St. Xavier in February — said it was a “wise decision” to have one of the school’s educators fill the role of interim principal.

“Amy has the confidence and support of her faculty and staff. They all said they’d be willing to step forth and do the job, but that she was fairly capable and fit for the role,” he said.

Colistra said he and Sample had a “great and meaningful” conversation about education.

“Our philosophy and outlook on education are aligned and in sync. That made me feel good,” said Colistra. “The principal-president relation is important in a school like ours. I’m excited. I feel very good and confident in Amy in her role. I’m ready to begin that relationship today.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has upended many routines — Catholic school students will not return to the classroom for the 2019-2020 school year — both Colistra and Sample will assume their roles July 1.

Sample is concerned about the uncertainty the pandemic has created.

“I’m worried about whether we’ll have a normal start to the school year as we move forward,” she said.

Both leaders say the uncertainty will not stop them from moving forward with the school’s mission. One of the things Sample said she plans to keep doing is the school’s work to help students with learning disabilities.

“There’s a place for those young men who are struggling learners (at St. Xavier). Sometimes St. X is seen as an Ivy League school on the hill, but it’s not. We serve all students and that’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

Colistra said he and Sample will have to “work extra hard to reach our momentum” but he doesn’t foresee it slowing them down.

“We’re not going to waste a year. Many would feel their way around and skip to the second year before anything gets done. We’re not going to slow down because of my being new and Amy being new (to the role of principal). The expectations and standards will remain very high. We’re going to uphold the standards of St. Xavier.”

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