Tag Archives: Mount Saint Joseph High School

What does it mean when we say ‘Mount Man?’

Mount St. Joseph students enjoy the camaraderie of attending a game at Plevyak Field. Photo credit: Mount St. Joseph High School

A lot of pride comes with being a “Mount Man.” While wearing my uniform, I have heard adults tell children I deserve acknowledgment because I am a Mount Man. But what does that mean? Why does being a “Mount Man” deserve so much respect?

Senior Braylon Sims

“Being a Mount Man is really about doing everything you can for the Mount St. Joseph community,” Braylon Sims said. Sims, a senior at MSJ, is a part of the track team and is a former Fresh/Soph Basketball player. “Just being present in the community and really giving back to what it’s giving you.”

At the same time, Sims said that people at the Mount live by the ‘classmates for four years, brothers for life’ motto that is so commonly used at the Mount. “And that’s really giving back to what people have created here before and what you’re going to leave behind after you graduate.”

Mr. Michael Stromberg

MSJ teacher and alum, Mr. Stromberg, shares a similar view to Sims. Being a Mount Man is “realizing that you are part of such a larger thing than yourself and thinking about all the guys who have graduated here in the past, all the guys that are going to graduate with you, and all those that are going to graduate after you,” Mr. Stromberg said.

Both Sims and Mr. Stromberg indicate that the true meaning of being a Mount Man is taking in what alumni have left behind at the Mount and leaving something behind for future Gaels to take in. But what about the MSJ students who don’t participate much at the Mount? Is everyone who goes to the Mount a ‘Mount Man,’ or is it exclusive to those who leave their names behind on banners and boards?

“The thing is, you take part in this community even when you don’t realize it,” Sims said. He says that just by going to MSJ, you participate in this community and that everyone that goes to the Mount is a Mount Man.

“I think you have to buy into the experience at St. Joe. But I do. I think if you are walking across that stage as a graduate, I think you are a Mount Man,” Mr. Stromberg said. He says it isn’t about being the ‘perfect person’ or being dedicated to the Xaverian values, but about striving to be the best, we can be.

Classmates gather for a reunion here at The Mount. Photo Credit: Mount St. Joseph High School

However, this still doesn’t answer why Mount Men draw so much respect. “We get to take our experience at St. Joe out into society and hopefully instill that little bit that we were able to receive here as a gift,” Mr. Stromberg said. Mr. Stromberg suggests that we deserve respect because we are contributing to the world through our experiences at St. Joe.

A Mount Man takes part in the MSJ community, strives to be the best person they can be, and takes their experience at MSJ into society. It’s not about being involved in the most clubs and activities at the Mount. It’s not about just knowing the Xaverian Values. It’s about taking all the lessons, striving to follow them, and sending them out into the world.

Jimmy Thomas is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

A new face on a historic campus

Mr. Frank Espinosa, Mount Saint Joseph’s Principal

Over the past year, the Mount Saint Joseph community faced a challenge that the school hadn’t faced in a long time – the search for a new principal. With the retirement of Mr. Dave Norton, St. Joe began the search for a new principal at the start of the 2019 school year. Because of the longevity of the principals that Mount St. Joe has had over the past three decades, this was definitely a new experience for the community to go through. It was a time of uncertainty, where we all had to put a lot of faith and trust in the leaders at St. Joe.

On July 1st, the school announced that Mr. Francisco Espinosa, a life-long servant of Xaverian education, would become the new principal at Mount Saint Joe. For Mr. Espinosa, this journey to The Mount was one that took him time to realize was the correct move for him. Mr. Espinosa has been an educator for 28 years, his most recent position being Principal at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky. During his time at Saint X, Mr. Espinosa held a variety of jobs, including varsity football coach, history teacher, assistant principal for student life, and assistant principal for supervision of instruction, before taking on his role as principal. Now he takes over as principal at another XBSS school. Saint X is a fellow Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School, and as a school community, we share the same values that they do. Both are very similar environments.

“I’ve been coaching and teaching kids for 28 years to take chances and it was time for me to take a chance” 

Mr. Frank Espinosa

Mr. Espinosa took on the challenges of being principal head-on during his time at Saint X. He always took the time to create strong relationships with students, and he used his coaching experience to build strong bonds with the students that he interacted with. Mr. Espinosa was often faced with working with students who were dealing with a multitude of challenges, in and out of the classroom. He was determined to give all students a chance to prove themselves by giving them opportunities to better their situations. He has an open door policy for all students, and in his time at Saint X he strived to develop strong relationships with students through communication and contact. This is a goal that he has for himself at Saint Joe too.

“I enjoyed giving kids an opportunity to prove themselves; giving them an opportunity to better their situation” 

Prior to coming to St. Joe, Mr. Espinosa served as principal at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.

While he was in Kentucky, Mr. Espinosa was well-known within the MSJ community. For the past 6 years, Mr. Espinosa served as a member of the board, and during that time he was impactful in effecting change in the school, including developing the iPad program and a massive overhaul to college counseling last year. It has been one of the biggest changes for seniors and Mr. Espinosa was very involved with the work to increase college counseling. He offered many suggestions that helped the school design this program, placing his mark on St. Joe even before joining as principal. I’m currently in the college application process and it has been a huge tool for me.

“Mr. Andrews was very influential for me in talking to me about the school, but I think my experience on the board was especially influential” 

When the search for a new principal began, there was a period of deep thought for Mr. Espinosa. He realized that MSJ was in need of a good academic leader, and he had the experience on the board and at St. X. But this was a daunting task, considering he would have to move to Maryland for the position. Leaving his hometown, while leaving most of his family back in Kentucky until they can join him in Maryland, all while in the midst of a pandemic.

“The biggest passion I have in my life is my family and having good, solid, family values” 

Mr. Espinosa has been tasked with the biggest challenge of his professional career. The Mount has been very open about their plans regarding the pandemic, and they’re taking every step possible to ensure the safety of the community. Being able to protect all of the members of the community while still creating relationships with all the students has been a challenge at St. Joe and for Mr. Espinosa. But I think it is safe to say that this community has rallied around the new challenge and the new leadership of our principal, Mr. Frank Espinosa.

Andrew Sheppard is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class and a member of The Quill.

Mr. Sam Bianco takes on a new role at The Mount

Always considering himself a teacher first, this year, Mr. Sam Bianco added a new feather to his cap when he began the administrative role as Director of Student Life. I wanted to learn more about what this new role entailed, and give Mr. Bianco a chance to explain why he made the switch from Director of Students to this freshly carved-out job.

“Simply put, I really deal with anything that relates to Mount Saint Joe students that is not discipline or academics,” said Mr. Bianco. Specifically, the role involves student clubs and activities, as well as Spirit Week and school dances. He works with and supports the teachers and the students running the various clubs on campus. Mr. Bianco also talked about his plans to establish a Student Leadership Initiative. “I basically support students in any way I can.”

When the new role was announced back in April, I had assumed it was because of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I learned that was not the case. “The position was actually in the works well before the pandemic. It’s actually a position that has been talked about for years and years, because the goal there in part was bringing on another administrator.” One purpose for having the new administrator is to have the person handling the student opportunities on the administrative team.

“My number one goal is that every student finds something outside of academics that brings meaning and fulfillment to them here at this school.”

Mr. Sam Bianco, Director of Student Life

I also reached out to Mr. George Andrews, President of Mount Saint Joseph High School, for his take on the development of the Director of Student Life role. “I think it came about organically,” he stated. “It seemed to rise from many people suggesting it at the same time. From faculty and students, to the principal’s cabinet and the administration. The Mount had the same administrative structure for more than two decades and even the board of directors asked about a new structure to better meet the needs of students in extracurricular activities.”

I asked Mr. Bianco about his transition from Director of Students to Director of Student Life. He told me that he thinks his gifts and talents are better suited for the new role, for he is typically a more upbeat person. As a student, it is clear to me that Mr. Bianco is well suited for this job.

Both Mr. Bianco and Mr. Andrews emphasized the importance of having a good experience on campus. They encourage us not to be the “8:00-2:30 student,” to get involved, and to participate in extracurriculars. The new Director of Student Life role was formed as a means to support students, as well as the clubs and activities, and to ensure that each student has a memorable experience at Mount Saint Joseph.

“My number one goal is that every student finds something outside of academics that brings meaning and fulfillment to them here at this school,” said Mr. Bianco. “This is more than just a place where you take classes, and as cliché as that sounds, there’s so much truth to that.”

Mr. Bianco said that after we students graduate we will not necessarily remember that one thing we learned in class, but rather the experiences we had, and that his job is to help us find those experiences. “I’m not the guy that provides those experiences per se, but I’m the guy that’s gonna help you find them. And that’s why I’m passionate about the job, because it is personal for me.”

While Mr. Bianco will always see himself as a teacher first, he is elated to pursue this new role. As the Director of Student Life he has made it his goal to make sure that every student finds something meaningful to them on campus. St. Joe will definitely be a better place for all students if they are able to find that meaningful activity that might stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Gabe Henstrand is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Looking ahead to The Mount of the future

The Mount of yesteryear is certainly different from The Mount of today, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication of the faculty to the growth of the young men in their care.

Mount Saint Joseph has always prided itself in having a strong administration. The administration prides itself on not just being the heads of the school, but also being called to teach classes while fulfilling their duties as administrators. Mr. Rob Peace and Mr. George Andrews are two teachers that I have been lucky enough to have for classes during my time at St. Joe. What I have learned from my experiences with them, is that they have a passion for the students, and the school.

Mount Saint Joseph, just like has any other school, has to have a strong administration for succeed. Before the school year, Mr. David Norton, principal of The Mount, retired. This presented a challenge for the administration. School president, Mr. George Andrews, took charge. Mr. Andrews has grown up around Xaverian education. He went to St. Mary’s Ryken, and previously taught at Mount St. Joe before becoming president of the school, and he has such a passion for The Mount. In the interim, while searching for a new principal, he offered to take over the principal position. Mr. Andrews now has to manage an Honors Modern America Class, and two significant administration positions. Mr. Rob Peace also has been involved in Xaverian education for a large portion of his life. He comes from North Carolina, and his wife’s great uncle was a Xaverian Brother. Both Mr. Andrews and Mr. Peace, are strong believers in the power of Xaverian education.

Left to right
Mr. Sam Bianco (Director of Students), Mr. David Norton (Retired Principal), Mr. Robert Peace (Director of Staff Formation), Mr. George Andrews (President and interim Principal), Mr. Greg McDivitt (Director of Studies)

While Mr. Peace and Mr. Andrews are the only administrative members who aren’t alumni of The Mount, they came to the school for many reasons. They both talk about the school as if they are alumni. Both hailing from Catholic backgrounds, they both arrived at the school nervous, but ready for a challenge.

Ms. Judy Kraft, former teacher & administrator.

For students today, Ms. Judy Kraft is a name they may hear a lot, even though she is no longer with the school community. She held the position of Assistant Principal and Director of Faculty Formation from 1998 until 2010. Ms. Kraft returned to teach in the Theology department until her death in 2011. Currently, Mr. Peace holds the same position that Ms. Kraft held for so many years. When asked about her impact, Mr. Peace’s face lit up as he talked about her.

“She was very compassionate to me with the Xaverian Education.”

Mr. Rob Peace, speaking about the influence of Ms. Judy Kraft.

She taught Mr. Peace the ways of St. Joe and how to foster a community of “care and concern for the boys.” Mr. Peace learned a lot about what it meant to manage a diverse faculty and staff, and to develop a Xaverian spirit of trust, from Ms. Kraft. Now in his 10th year as Assistant Principal, when talking about his teachers, Mr. Peace, like Ms. Kraft before him, is extremely positive about his staff.

We’ve got the best teachers in the state of Maryland because they know their content area, and they are able to make themselves better and improve their content area. They will always go the extra mile to help them grow. They believe in the mission of the school. There are always alums who want to come back and thank their teachers.”

Mr. Rob Peace, speaking positively about The Mount’s teaching staff.

Mr. Andrews came to the Mount in 1987, and as he started to teach history he began feeling passionately about the school, eventually falling in love with the school and the goals that they are trying to accomplish. Over the course of his career, he has gone from teaching, coaching, and running student council, to becoming the face of St. Joe as its president. He was so impacted by his experience being around the Xaverian Brothers, as a student at Ryken High School (now St. Mary’s Ryken), that he wanted to have that same impact on students, faculty, and staff today.

“My connection to the Xaverian Brothers and what they did for me, I want to see the Mount doing the same that they did for me.”

Mr. George Andrews, President of Mount Saint Joseph High School.

When Mr. David Norton retired prior to the start of the school year, Mr. Andrews took charge and decided to run two main office positions, President and Principal. He told me it’s going very well, but he always has to have his game face on. Both he and Mr.Peace talked about how good the staff is here, and how experienced they are. Mr. Andrews called them, “a band of brothers and sisters.” Mr. Andrews goes to every reunion and is able to see the impact the Mount has made on graduates, as well as seeing how they have thrived because of their experience. Mr. Peace also talked positively about seeing alumni returning to the school to visit the teachers. Mr. Andrews agrees with the sentiment that so many alumni believe, that graduation from the Mount is truly a “memory that will last a life time.”

“Our goal is to develop men who matter and what we do really works.”

School President and Interim Principal, Mr. George Andrews

Both Mr. Andrews and Mr. Peace love teaching, and the students they impact. Mr. Andrews teaches a Junior Honors American History class and Mr. Peace teaches a Freshman Theology class. Both of them enjoy interacting with students and being more than just an administrator. Both are heavily involved with the process of hiring new teachers. They both consider teaching an art, and they want to make sure that all hired teachers buy in to the mission of the school.

“Know your stuff, got to like kids, and be able to see teaching as an art.”

Mr. George Andrews speaking about the teaching profession.

Both teachers talked highly about the environment here, but when they came to MSJ, just like most students, they were a bit unsure of their surroundings, but ready to work. They both believe in the mission. And they, along with the rest of the administration, are passionate advocates for Mount St. Joe, its mission and values.

Mr. Andrews getting inducted to the St. Mary’s Ryken, athletic ring of honor.

When looking to the future of the Mount both talked about continuing the Xaverian Values. According to both Mr. Andrews and Mr. Peace, being an educator 20 years ago is very different then the way information is conveyed today. The Mount’s founding brothers started off with one student, today they have over 900 students, all with different needs and strengths, many who had relatives that attended the Mount previously. Mr. Andrew’s believes the founding brothers would be astonished by how much the school has grown and developed over the past 143 years. Teaching today is 21st century based, leaving behind the chalk and chalk board to iPads and a reliance on education technology. The brotherhood still exists, the mission still being spread. If you have all of those things, Mount Saint Joseph will continue to be a home for young men for years to come.

Andrew Sheppard is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class, and a member of The Quill.