A First For O’Gorman


A familiar face at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls is taking on a new leadership role. 

Joan Mahoney, the school’s assistant principal for the past 13 years will begin the 2017 school year as principal. 

Yet, what might seem like a routine step up the ladder, is actually a milestone moment in the school’s 56 year history. 

The walls of O’Gorman High School hold the stories of its past. 

Each class, is framed with composites including every student who passed through these halls, many of whom also passed by Joan Mahoney who helped lead their way. 

“So it’s really important, as we move forward, that this becomes my job now, to make sure that we don’t lose touch of those traditions and that’s why I like the fact that I’ve been here as long as I have,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney started her career as an English teacher at O’Gorman in 1990 and eventually became assistant principal of the Catholic high school in 2004. 

“Moving into administration was different and yet still the same because I still had the ability to be around the students and they’re really my joy,” Mahoney said.

Yet it wasn’t just her skill with students that lead her to where she is today. 

In fact,colleague Ken Lindemann recognized the spark 27 years ago… when he started at O’Gorman on the same day. 

“You look for people that you can trust and can help you become a better teacher and I knew that about Joan instantly as a teacher. And she was a first year teacher at the same time, but I knew she knew things that I needed to know,” Lindemann said. 

Lindemann wasn’t the only to recognize that Mahoney was bound for a bigger role. 

“Her door was always open and that was a place where if you were frustrated, you just ran down and talked to Joan and she would calm you down,” said Lindemann. 

As she moved up the ranks to assistant principal, Mahoney found herself on a path outside the classroom, following a legacy of leadership led by Catholic priests until Tom Lorang, became the school’s first principal who wasn’t a priest. From there, three more men led O’Gorman. Seven in all, until this year. 

Mahoney is now O’Gorman’s first female principal. 

“The legacy that I would like to leave I hope I already left in my years here, just to be a strong role model for high school girls,” Mahoney said.

And that first-time teacher colleague, Lindemann, was on the committee that put her at this desk. 

“We’d seen her in action. We knew that she had strong leadership skills. We knew that she was compassionate. But I think probably the biggest thing overall was just her passion for O’Gorman,” Lindemann said. 

Mahoney says she’s ready to lead the Blue Ribbon-winning school, 

“The reputation that O’Gorman has for its academics and its excellence in extra-curricular activities is something that we don’t take lightly,” said Mahoney .

 Yet leading a private school, she admits, adds another challenge to her role. 

“We’re never guaranteed a student. So every student has to be “won” and I just mentioned that to our new staff yesterday. We have to go out and earn every student, every day,” Mahoney said.

Although Mahoney breaks tradition in her new role, she hopes to keep the school’s identity at the center of her leadership. 

“As we’ve transitioned and have fewer religious people in the school, it’s up to the lay leaders to make sure we keep that Catholic identity and faith centered in our mission,” said Mahoney.

A mission that Mahoney is ready to take on in a new O’Gorman era.

“To me being the principal at O’Gorman High School is the best job in the world. I always say, it’s my dream job. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So I’m excited. I can’t wait. I love the teachers. I love the students. It’s where I’ve been for 27 years. I’m just excited to get started,” said Mahoney.

The man Mahoney is replacing, Kyle Groos, became President of the entire Sioux Falls Catholic School system this summer. 

Mahoney is getting ready to welcome close to 800 students Monday morning. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Continuing The Conversation

Trending Stories

Don't Miss!

More Don't Miss


More Contests