Our Lady of Lourdes Grade School will have a new principal when the doors open for the 2012-13 school year.

Rick Danzeisen, a veteran teacher and administrator, will assume his new duties at the school this summer.

On Thursday, “Mr. D” was at OLL to meet with Father Mike Boehm, pastor, and some of the students and staff.

Danzeisen was hired in March after an extensive search process. He will replace Erin Whalen, who has served as principal for the last three years. Whalen is relocating to Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School in Columbia.

“Mr. Danzeisen brings with him a wealth of experience and strong desire to educate and form our children in the Catholic faith,” said Father Mike Boehm. “He has been an innovative administrator, is well respected in the Catholic educational community, has a passion for the education of children and works well with teachers, parents and students.”

Danzeisen has spent the last four years as principal of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in south St. Louis, which has faculty and staff of 19 and a student body of 225 students in preschool through eighth grade.

Prior to that, he served as principal at Seven Holy Founders for four years; Our Lady of Sorrows Parish for 18 years; and St. Joseph Catholic School in Kimmswick for four years.

Before becoming a principal, Danzeisen taught fourth and sixth grades at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Valley Park, St. John the Baptist Catholic School and in the Normandy School District.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Southeast Missouri State University and a master’s degree in elementary administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Father Mike Boehm described Danzeisen as “enthusiastic and energetic.”

“He continues to challenge himself to keep current with newer trends in education and is a member of the National Catholic Education Association,” he added.

Danzeisen, who has held several leadership positions within the St. Louis Archdiocese and St. Louis educational community, is a certified trainer in the field of differentiated instruction, which he plans to put in place at OLL over time.

“I want to first find out how much the staff knows about it and I hope fairly quickly we can start incorporating snippets of it into the classroom,” he said. “It’s a process and it takes time to develop and incorporate in daily instruction, but we’ll work toward that.”

In an interview with The Missourian, Danzeisen said he’s very excited about coming to OLL and looks forward to the new opportunities it brings. He said he believes strongly in open communication with staff, families and students.

“My door is always open,” he said. “Communication is such an important part of what goes on in a school and it’s so important we are all on the same page.”

Danzeisen said his first priority as principal will be to assess the current climate and learn how the school operates. He wants to hear from the staff and parents on what they think the strengths of the school are and what areas could be improved.

He also wants to develop a school-wide theme for the new year — something he has done at his past schools — which is built around faith.

“We’ll have activities throughout the year that go along with that theme,” he said.

Danzeisen also believes strongly in community service and hopes to incorporate some activities he’s done elsewhere at OLL such as recycling the many coffee mugs teachers receive from students each year by filling them with candy and delivering them to local nursing homes and delivering Easter baskets to shut-ins in the parish.

“I’m a big believer that community service be instilled into kids and helping them realize they are part of the larger community — service to others is so important,” he said.

He also wants to build a rapport with the PSR students and plans to stop in on those religion classes several times throughout the school year so the children know who is he and feel connected to the parish.

Danzeisen said he plans to start working in the school office about mid-June and other than a two-week vacation in early July will be there Monday through Friday most weeks from about 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. He invites families to stop in and say hello.

In addition to the annual back-to-school night with parents, he plans to hold parent meetings with 10 to 15 families at a time beginning in September so he can get to know the families and learn what’s important. He also plans to send out a letter to all current freshmen students who graduated from OLL to learn how their first year of high school went and if they felt prepared.

“I will share this information at the parent meetings as well,” Danzeisen said.

Being supportive of the teaching staff is another priority, said Danzeisen, who likes to decorate the faculty lounge each month, as well as have a bulletin board recognizing staff birthdays and achievements.

“If you expect your teachers to change their bulletin boards, I need to be doing the same thing,” he said.

Danzeisen also likes to start faculty meetings with mission moments where teachers can share stories of how they’ve seen the school’s mission being carried out in the classroom, hallway or at recess. Before the new school year starts, he will meet one on one with each staff member.

“I will be asking them the same questions as I do of parents. What do you think the strengths are, where can we grow and improve and information on our families so I can start getting to know the kids,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great year and I can’t wait to get started.