MOVING AHEAD --Ted Havens wants to build on Catholic school's history
by: Nancy Townsley, Ted Havens, Visitation Catholic School's new principal, plans to establish a preschool by fall of 2007.

Sitting in the middle of a giant pile of file folders last Thursday, Ted Havens had already launched his new start.

"These belonged to my predecessor," said Havens, who started his job as Visitation Catholic School's principal on July 1.

Havens, 38, replaces Judy Welle as the top administrator at the 99-student private school, which has operated in the farming community of Verboort for 130 years.

He formerly was assistant principal at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Milwaukie. Before that, Havens was a fourth-grade teacher at All Saints Catholic School in northeast Portland.

Overseeing a six-person teaching staff at the K-8 school presents Havens with "a great opportunity," he said. Part of the Archdiocese of Portland, Visitation enjoys a long, proud history in the Verboort community.

"I'm starting here with lots of optimism," said Havens, who hails from Battle Creek, Mich. He, his wife Shalena and their 2-year-old son Fin live in southeast Portland.

The couple's second child is due in February.

Havens holds a master's degree in teaching and is proficient in Web design. He is in the process of "putting a new face" on Visitation's Web page.

"It's something I like to do when I'm not pursuing other interests," including hiking, bicycling and camping, Havens said.

His approach as a principal is "to be visible and open, and to let folks know they can come in and see me," Havens noted.

During the coming school year, Havens said he would focus on curriculum issues and establishing a preschool by fall of 2007.

"We're in a restructuring phase, and surveys in the community have indicated there's a need for a preschool," Havens said.

Because Visitation's census has declined in recent years, enrollment growth is another focus, Havens said.

During the 1980s enrollment peaked at about 150 students, Havens said.

"I see a big part of my job as making a diamond in the rough into a diamond," he said. "I believe this school will grow."

Calling his staff "a very dynamic group of dedicated teachers," Havens said he aimed to shore up community support for the tiny campus and its programs.

"This truly is a community school - the families are really passionate about Visitation," Havens said.

Events such as the 72nd annual Verboort Sausage Festival, scheduled Nov. 4, boost school spirit and community affiliation, noted Havens. He wants to capitalize on that.

Parishioners next door at Visitation Catholic Church "get really involved" in the festival, and the school's teachers and students jump on board as well, Havens said.

Integration of the Catholic faith into all aspects of campus life separates Visitation from other private schools, Havens said.

"Our students are in Mass once a week," he pointed out.

Some area families have been sending their children to Visitation for three or four generations, paying between $3,200 and $3,850 per year for private schooling.

"We have the second-lowest tuition rate in the Portland archdiocese," Havens said. "We can trade on a huge Dutch-Catholic heritage."

Another thing that sets Visitation apart, Havens said, is that several of the teachers are from the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

"In many Catholic schools it's lay personnel who are teaching nowadays," said Havens. "You don't see as many nuns around anymore."

Havens himself is an adherent to the Catholic faith, and archdiocese policies require all teachers to be Catholic as well.

He said he looked forward to the challenges and opportunities to come.

"It's going to be an extremely positive year," Havens predicted.

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