EBENSBURG – In a collaborative move, Bishop McCort and Bishop Carroll Catholic high schools announced a new partnership on Tuesday.
"We can do a lot more working together than separate," Bishop McCort Principal and Chief Administrative Officer Tom Smith said.
As part of this effort, McCort's assistant principal, Stephen Cotchen, is leaving his position to become the Bishop Carroll Head of School.
Lorie Ratchford currently holds that position. But after 30 years with Bishop Carroll, Ratchford will be retiring on June 30.
Cotchen will be a good replacement, Bishop Carroll CEO Lynn Weber said.
She described him as "energetic" and "forward-thinking."
His advancement in Catholic education has created a void at McCort, Smith said, but that spot was quickly filled.
Instead of having an assistant principal, the school will now have a dean of students and dean of instruction, both of which have already been filled by Chris Pfeil and Jen Bradley, respectively.
Pfeil has served as the dean of discipline at McCort and Bradley is a biology teacher who helped with the transition to online learning at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another announcement made Tuesday was that McCort's current guidance and career counselor, Richard Denhard, will also become Bishop Carroll's first-ever career and college readiness coordinator.
In this role, Denhard "will help take Bishop Carroll’s career readiness efforts to the next level" by assisting students with identification and development of career goals, he said.
He'll also create individualized 4-year plans for each student to help achieve those goals while providing expanded career and college services to students at Bishop McCort.
"With the schools working together we're all succeeding all around," Bishop Carroll Dean of Students Jon Nagy said.
School officials explained that the sharing of resources between the two institutions will expand further than just these two instances, and Cotchen said shared programming may be in the future.
Weber mentioned that this collaboration may hold cost-savings benefits for the schools.
As for stepping into his new role, Cotchen said he's "beyond excited" to begin his journey at Bishop Carroll and get back to Ebensburg, where he began his career in education 20 years ago.
"Bishop Carroll Catholic High School is bursting with great potential," Cotchen said.
Those involved viewed this partnership as a way of strengthening Catholic learning in Cambria County.
Smith said the partnership should be positive for St. Francis University in Loretto as well.
"We're growing and becoming stronger," Smith said.