Fenwick High School, a Dominican Catholic College Preparatory School, 505 Washington Blvd, Oak Park, is welcoming its newest principal, Mark Rasar, who says he will work to maintain the school’s legacy when he assumes his position on July 1.
After a career in public education, Rasar is also looking forward to practicing and teaching the Catholic values he grew up with.
While he doesn’t fully take over until summer, he said the school, including students, have been welcoming and he loves the diversity, maturity, and values he is witnessing as part of the school culture.
Rasar began his career in education with a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. While substitute teaching, he returned to school for his master’s degree along with a certification in secondary education, recognizing he had a passion for serving high school students.
His first job was as an AP economics teacher at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago.
“The sophistication of the conversations that you can have with the kids is different,” Rasar said. “It is very different teaching a freshman than it is a senior. During the day you were able to have nuanced conversations with the students about their learning experience and watch them grow.”
Being able to be a part of the send-off to college is also a special part of being involved in a student’s life at a high school level, said Rasar, adding that he learned and grew alongside them.
“In those lower grade levels, it is fun watching the little kids but there is just a difference in the professionalism of a high schooler as they are making their way into adulthood,” he said.
Rasar began serving in various administrative positions including as the associate principal for H.D Jacobs High School in Algonquin and as principal at Lincoln Junior High School in Skokie. Since 2019, he has been principal at Holmes Junior High School in Mount Prospect.
The Illinois Principals Association named him the 2022 North Cook Region-Middle School Principal of the Year.
To find its next principal, Fenwick formed a search committee in September 2022 to work alongside Partners in Mission, a full-service consulting firm working to develop excellence in Catholic school advancement and leadership. Rasar was contacted by a friend who believed he would be the perfect candidate for the position at Fenwick.
“It was a unique experience at a phenomenal school that really drew me in to continuing those conversations,” Rasar said.
Making the shift to private education is a learning curve, he said, but is confident in the mission and believes his strong family roots in Catholic schools, which he attended from kindergarten to eighth grade in his hometown of Peoria, will help him navigate the change.
“When you go into any principal shift, there is some hesitation and you have to feel if it is the right fit for you,” he said. “But most of everything, all my skill sets, rolled over from public as far as generality.”
With added responsibilities, including recruitment to maintain enrollment, Rasar is dedicated to ensuring Fenwick maintains its reputation as a premier college prep school.
In a press release, Rev. Richard Peddicord, O.P., school president, said Rasar was a perfect choice for the position.
“Mark’s wealth of administrative experience and academic expertise, proven leadership ability, fresh perspective, and focus on enhancing and growing the premier college preparatory school in the Chicago Catholic League make him the ideal choice,” Peddicord said.
Rasar is looking forward to the unique experience of leading a Catholic school.
“For me as a Catholic, it creates a unique opportunity for me to be able to share my faith and my moral grounds in a more open way,” he said. “I think that is something that drew me into being able to leave and go back to where everything began for me in education.”
He is also looking forward to aiding Fenwick in their centennial campaign to help with capital improvements of the main building, along with maintaining strong enrollment, and working alongside faculty to ensure the proper resources are provided both for teachers as well as students.
“We are there to serve and that is part of our mission,” Rasar said. “The number one thing for me is to serve our students and our families. I want to be able to have open lines of communication with our families and make sure we are delivering on our Catholic values for them.”