When the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte decided to open a new high school in Mooresville this past autumn, Dr. Dan Dolan saw an opportunity to both make a positive impact on the lives of Charlotte-area youth and fulfill his life-long mission to be a school leader. "I can't think of a more rewarding way to spend my day," he says. Originally from Maryland, Dolan received his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 2003 in educational leadership and policy studies. He also has three master’s degrees, one each in biology, policy studies and curriculum and instruction. He says he earned all of his degrees by taking night classes after a stint in the Air Force. Christ the King Catholic High School opened in Aug. 2011. Though administrators originally hoped for 50 students, Dolan says 28 are currently enrolled. Eight educators teach the students who have an opportunity few are afforded: a chance to shape their school's programming for future generations. Why did the diocese decide to open a high school in the Lake Norman area? We have several elementary schools and middle schools in Charlotte. There was clearly a need for more high schools, and there have been a lot of people with children in those primary schools who have pushed for a school in north Charlotte. What types of programming does your school offer? We have a fairly robust sports program for the number of kids we have, as well as college preparatory classes. We hope to add a pep band next year, and more programs later. Right now, if there were a single student who wanted to play an instrument, for instance, we would try to help facilitate classes for them. We have the luxury of focusing on each individual student's needs and hope to help each of them reach their potential. The stereotype is that Catholic schools are run by priests and nuns, but you're not a priest. Are your teachers nuns? It is true that, in the past, most Catholic school leaders were priests or sisters, but those roles are now filled by lay people, which isn't a trivial thing. In fact, it complicates the church's finances since lay people require salaries and benefits priests and nuns might not. Tuition and fees for your school differ depending on whether or not a student and their family are practicing Catholics. Why is that? The diocese, and Catholic schools in general, work very hard to keep Catholic education affordable, and there are some need-based scholarships available. Since Catholic parishes make a significant contribution to the schools, those who are practicing Catholics – and are more likely to be tithing and therefore also contributing to the schools – are offered lower tuition rates that those who are not practicing Catholics. However, that doesn't mean those who aren't practicing are any less welcome; the schools are open to families of all faiths.
What are your and the diocese's plans for expanding the school in the future? We have purchased more than 100 acres of land in Kannapolis. We plan to eventually build an entire campus. Construction started early this year.