St. Peter R.C. School in Lewiston has announced the appointment of Denis P. Coakley as principal. Coakley, who currently serves as director of pro-life activities for the Diocese of Buffalo, will assume this new role as of Sept. 20.
Coakley comes to St. Peter R.C. School following a Catholic education career that has spanned 16 years. Prior to returning to Buffalo in 2009 for family reasons, Coakley was headmaster and principal of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, a co-ed, Catholic, international boarding school located in Hays, Kansas. In addition, he also served as assistant to the superintendent for Catholic education for professional development, with a focus on content, pedagogy and spiritual needs of faculty and staff, school accreditation, and crisis preparedness and management.
From 2008-09, Coakley served as president of Ellis County Catholic Schools, where he was responsible for bringing the schools out of debt, building the high school endowment, and strengthening the academic program. As headmaster, he oversaw the elimination of close to $1 million in debt, increased enrollment, added curricular and extra-curricular opportunities for students, conducted a strategic plan for the Ellis County Catholic schools, and worked to build up the endowment.
Prior to his time in Kansas, Coakley held positions at various Western New York Catholic schools, including St. Thomas Aquinas, where he taught junior high social studies, English and religion; at Immaculata Academy, where he taught American history, government and economics; and at Mount Mercy Academy, where he spent three years teaching ethics, ecclesiology and theology of grieving.
In 2001, he joined the faculty of St. Francis High School, and served as director of the Paduan Scholars, the honors program at St. Francis, as assistant campus minister and as a religion teacher. His duties at these three high schools also included advising student government and coaching debate.
"God has really blessed St. Peter School," said Sister Marcia Ann Fuitko, pastoral associate at St. Peter R.C. Church, on news of Coakley's appointment. "I personally know Denis, as I worked with him at Immaculata Academy, where he was well loved by colleagues and students alike. We are lucky to have such an outstanding educator whose passion and heart really is in Catholic education."
Born in Buffalo, Coakley has lived in both South Buffalo and Ireland. He is a graduate of St. Martin School, Canisius High School and Canisius College, where he earned his B.A. in psychology and religious studies through the All-College Honors Program, and his M.S. in educational administration and supervision. His honors thesis is titled, "Humanae Vitae and the Teaching Authority of the Roman Catholic Church."
In addition to his passion for Catholic education, Coakley has also shown an interest in public service, having run for public office on four separate occasions. In 1995 and 1997, he was the youngest candidate in the City of Buffalo's history to run for the Common Council South District seat. In 1999, the Republican, Conservative and Right to Life parties endorsed him for the City of Buffalo Common Council presidency. He was referred to by some in his efforts to unseat James Pitts as "the other bow tie." In 2004, he was a candidate for the Buffalo Board of Education, backed by municipal and educational unions.To read more about Coakley, his education philosophy, and his letter to the St. Peter's community, log on to the school's website: www.StPeterRC.org.