John Dolan understands that filling the shoes of Jim Nolan is no easy task. But he wouldn't have been tabbed as the new principal of Sachem High School North if Nolan and the hiring committee didn't think he was the next great leader in the history of the storied building.
"Jimmy is a tough act to follow," said Dolan, who also replaced Edward Ehmann as principal at Smithtown West High School before he became Superintendent of that district. "That's part of the challenge. Jim wants North to continue to grow and continue the tradition, so that's exciting. He has a great deal of affection for Sachem, so it's a nice feeling."
In a statement released to Smithtown residents, Ehmann expressed his appreciation for Dolan.
"We are truly sorry to see a man of his capabilities leave the district," Ehmann wrote. "We are all sorry to see Mr. Dolan leave Smithtown as he has worked tirelessly on behalf of our students."
Dolan and Nolan have crossed paths in their careers. Nolan was the dean of students at Patchogue-Medford High School for a year when Dolan was a history teacher there. Even then Nolan was impressed by Dolan's multitasking and leadership qualities.
"To have someone apply for the job, who is an experienced sitting principal is a great thing," Nolan said. "John was like the Alex Young of Pat-Med [back then]. He was involved with student government, coaching and was highly respected by his colleagues, students and families in the community."
Dolan, 48, the son of two English teachers, attended Ward Melville High School, Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University. He has an MBA from Adelphi University and his administrative certifications from Dowling College. His educational career started at Pat-Med in 1986 where he taught history and economics and he stuck around Raider nation until 2001 when he took a job as assistant principal at a middle school in Smithtown. In 2004 he was promoted to principal at Smithtown West.
Moving to Sachem North, a school with about 700 more students than Smithtown West, presents an interesting and exciting challenge for Dolan, who was always aware of Sachem as being powerful and having a strong and positive reputation.
"There is a lot of pride and tradition," he said proudly from his new office at North, which sports a Marty Lyons Jets jersey on the wall and signs with beach themes. "You always knew when you were coming to Sachem, or when Sachem was coming to you. You would have to do the best that you could."
Though difficult to make a mid-year transition into a high school, Dolan, who lives in Oakdale with his wife Theresa and sons Brian, Kevin and Matthew, has carried some lofty goals with him: to have a 100 percent graduation rate and to have all students graduate with advanced regents diplomas.
He realizes both are stretches, but if the entire building comes together to increase the numbers (Sachem has an 88 percent graduation rate) even slightly, then they'll be on their way.