Alumni Report: Roland Park's Cathy Nolan

November 06, 2009|By Sandra McKee | sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Cathy Nolan earned a white blazer as a three-sport athlete at Roland Park in 1976. She still has the blazer, but she said in a phone interview this week that she took away much more than the jacket when she graduated.

Nolan has been principal - a "pretty strict" one - at Legacy High in Broomfield, Colo., for the past eight years.

"I think the organization, discipline and self-motivation I learned at Roland Park carries over into my work," she said from her office. "I don't think I'm the easiest person to work for, but I think this is a good place to work.

"I have very high expectations for academic and behavioral standards. But I think when you set high standards, what you're really doing is encouraging young people to grow and do better."

At Roland Park, Nolan played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. She continued to play basketball and lacrosse at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University, where she majored in physical education and health with a minor in psychology.

"I wanted to be a teacher," said Nolan, 51 and the mother of two, Megan Shefte, 19, and Kyle Shefte, 17. "And I did that. And I was an athletic director for 11 years at Horizon High School [in Brighton, Colo.]. In fact, I helped open that school in 1988 before coming to Legacy in 1999, where I became assistant principal and helped open this school in 2000."

At Horizon, she did everything from picking the team colors to naming the mascot. At Legacy, she helped with those tasks but also with hiring the teaching staff, planning the curriculum and picking the textbooks.

"It was very exciting," Nolan said of starting a school from scratch. "But the thing I am most proud of is that in the last five years I've helped move our High Growth and High Performance level from average to high. It shows our students are growing [in intelligence] and doing well against their peers."

Nolan, who said that over the years she has not had time to develop personal interests or hobbies, said her work is addictive.

"You really have to love it," she said. "It's a lifestyle, not a job. Last week I worked 75 hours, which is longer than usual but not out of the ordinary. As a high school administrator, you have to enjoy being with the kids, going to the class play, a dance, a game. I still like watching the kids play sports. The competition still drives me."

Legacy wrestlers have won individual championships. The girls basketball team has been to the state final. On Oct. 24, the softball team won its third straight state title and the marching band won its fourth consecutive state crown.

An assembly is planned to celebrate the latest achievements. But Nolan's job isn't all celebration.

Two months ago she was named Administrator of the Year by the Colorado High School Press Association. Nolan believes it was because of her handling of an incident this year involving an editorial that portrayed the school's cheerleaders in a negative light.

"My newspaper staff nominated me because we have gone through some difficult times in terms of the publishing of articles that have stirred controversy, hurt feelings and stirred passion," Nolan said.

"You know, it's really like a mini-city here. There are 2,000 kids who spend eight hours a day on a property that is about the size of two football fields. But they do a really good job with each other. We have good kids. But while state championships are great and a perfect ACT score is wonderful, along with the fun stuff comes the challenging events."

From her days on the playing fields at Roland Park to her work as a school administrator, Nolan has proved that she's up to any challenge.

Alumni Report
Each Friday, The Baltimore Sun will catch up with a former area high school sports figure. In the spotlight today is former Roland Park three-sport athlete Cathy Nolan. To suggest former athletes or coaches to be considered for Alumni Report, please e-mail sports@baltsun.com.

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