When Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt takes the helm as the new diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, one of his goals will be to continue to foster the cooperation he’s witnessed in the Diocese of Trenton.
“I hope to bring to my role a real sense of community, where the schools and the various departments in the Diocese all work together for a common cause, which is to maximize our students’ potential.”
Dr. Schmidt was recently selected by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., to fill the position being vacated by the current superintendent, JoAnn Tier. She will be retiring at the end of June, an announcement that was made last fall. Tier has served the Department of Catholic Schools for 20 years, 11 of which were as superintendent.
“The Diocese is pleased to welcome Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt as its new superintendent of Catholic Schools,” Bishop O’Connell said. “His extensive background, experience, energy and enthusiasm for Catholic education will be a wonderful addition to our schools in the four counties of the Diocese.”
On the Right Path
Dr. Schmidt’s appointment comes after months of work by a search committee chaired by Mary Liz Ivins, former principal and president of Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville. The committee was composed of principals, educators and pastors. National search firm Carney-Sandoe of Boston assisted in the process.
“The committee interviewed several candidates over several months and enthusiastically recommended Dr. Schmidt for the position,” Bishop O’Connell said.
With a name like Vincent de Paul, Dr. Schmidt says with a laugh, it was only natural that he felt a kindred spirit in Bishop O’Connell the first time they met. Bishop O’Connell is a Vincentian, and Dr. Schmidt said he admired how the Bishop has a photo of the saint in his office.
“The Bishop made me feel welcome; he made me feel at home,” Dr. Schmidt said. “I think he’s living the mission of Catholic schools.”
Academia is an area the two can relate in as well. Bishop O’Connell is a past president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Schmidt is a longtime veteran of Catholic school leadership.
“Catholic schools are the only place where we can truly ground our children in the content that is going to get them to where they want to be, which is hopefully being good people doing good things in the community,” Dr. Schmidt said.
Dedicated to Mission
Born and raised Catholic, Dr. Schmidt comes from a family of saintly-inspired sibling names, he laughingly admits. He is a product of Catholic education and currently teaches organizational leadership as an adjunct professor at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.
He is coming to the Diocese of Trenton after serving as associate superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit. He previously served as the senior director of Catholic education in the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio; as superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., and was the associate superintendent of Catholic education in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.
For 14 years prior, he served in various administrative capacities in Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Belleville and Springfield Dioceses. He has served in roles such as director of academic affairs, school principal and chief operating officer and has administrative experience at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.
Dr. Schmidt completed a doctoral degree program in educational leadership in May 2015, earned an educational specialist degree in 2008 and a master’s degree in educational leadership in 2002, all at Saint Louis University in Missouri. He completed bachelor’s degree studies in secondary education and business administration at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in 1991. Dr. Schmidt has been a leader in curriculum development, educational technologies, continuing education for teachers, marketing, special education in Catholic schools, fiscal management and resource development.
“Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to the mission of Catholic education,” he said. “I continue to work hard to understand the role of the school in the lives of its students, respecting the traditions that have developed in Catholic schools, and serving as an ally for ideas that help children achieve the most from their capabilities.”
Known for his community service with special-needs children, Dr. Schmidt is also executive director for the Jensen-Schmidt Tennis Academy for Down Syndrome. This nonprofit organization has grown to provide tennis instruction in cities across the country, and its operational model has been adopted and implemented on a national scale. He is a professional tennis coach and has worked with many players on professional tours while also serving as a varsity coach at the high school level.
He and his wife, Dana, have been married for 26 years. They have three children: August, who just graduated from the University of Chicago; Jonas, and Maxim, who is enrolled at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.
Starting off Strong
Dr. Schmidt says he is prepared for the very real possibility that COVID-19 restrictions may still be in place – in some way – when his tenure begins, the start date of which has not been finalized.
“We are in uncharted waters, and we don’t know how far those waters go. We may be in this for a while,” he said.
Dr. Schmidt does, however, plan to continue the legacy being left by Tier, including her tireless efforts to communicate with and support school staffs during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I plan to continue the good work she has been doing, to be sure, and offer insight, help and a different perspective if needed,” he said, explaining that because of their similar roles, he and Tier have known each for about a decade.
“I have nothing but respect and admiration for her hard work – work I knew she would be putting in on this issue [coronavirus] because I know the hard work she puts in on every other issue.”
Dr. Schmidt also says he is looking forward to meeting and hearing from the diocesan and school staffs. “My way is to rely on my staff, my coworkers, my team in the education office.”
He admits that he is seeking a little guidance himself – as he moves from Ohio to New Jersey.
“I’m open to all suggestions on where to get a good pizza,” he said. “The area around Toledo is absent of any good pie.”