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Milwaukie-based Catholic high school names Alanna O'Brien as its 11th leader since founding in 1966

La Salle Catholic College Prep has named Alanna O'Brien its 11th principal, becoming the high school's first female principal since the Milwaukie-area school's founding in 1966.

Alanna O'BrienO'Brien, who has been serving as La Salle's interim principal since Andrew Kuffner became its full-time president last summer, was selected in March after a nationwide search for a leader of the co-ed school of 650 students.

"Alanna O'Brien is uniquely poised to advance our efforts to evolve from a traditional academic structure and culture into one of innovation, inclusivity and excellence," Kuffner said. "I have confidence Ms. O'Brien is the right leader for this time in La Salle's and our world's history. A curious person, a deep thinker and an incredible collaborator, Alanna strives to ignite in every student a passion for learning and excellence."

O'Brien started working at La Salle as an English teacher 25 years ago. In 2000, her colleagues voted her as the school's Lasallian Educator of the Year. A dozen years later, she shifted her focus as the vice principal overseeing teacher professional development and curriculum development.

Kuffner said he selected O'Brien for her education, experience, and drive to continue the school's academic innovation. Over the years, she has chaired La Salle's English department, served as its director of service, and led its Lasallian Education Advancement and Lasallian Scholars programs.

O'Brien led La Salle's summer school programs and annual social justice school theme initiative, coached in the girls' soccer program and chaperoned retreats. Two of her children now attend La Salle, and her third child plans to attend.

O'Brien earned a bachelor's degree in English from the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and a master's degree in teaching and an education administrative credential from Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Through her studies and experience, O'Brien said she has learned that the best education fosters a student's purpose and direction while leaving room for wonder and joy.

"The purpose of school and a 21st-century education is not simply to acquire information," she said. "Schools should allow for opportunities for deep learning in which students can apply their understanding of concepts in new and creative ways. The work of teaching and learning is not stagnant, but ever-changing in a complex, global society."

A lifelong Catholic and a member of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Southeast Portland, O'Brien seeks to build a community of faith as well as scholarship at La Salle. In her application for the principal position, she shared how her faith grounds her.

"My faith provides me with opportunities for contemplation, challenges me to be a person of integrity, reveals direction in times of uncertainty or loss, and demands hope for a peaceful and equitable world," she wrote.


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