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News and Notes


New leaders, new school year

PALM BEACH GARDENS  |  Some Catholic schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach opened Aug. 9, 2023, with new leadership.

St. Clare School in North Palm Beach has a new interim principal, Rachel Polak, after Rita Kissel moved from principal at St. Clare to principal at St. Joan of Arc in Boca Raton. St. Clare’s new assistant principal is Patrick Hansen.

Polak holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Eastern Illinois University, a master’s in educational leadership from the University of West Florida and a certificate in Catholic school management from Villanova University School of Business. She began her teaching career at the former St. Francis of Assisi School in Riviera Beach. She then worked at a Catholic school in Atlanta before moving to St. Clare, where she taught for seven years before becoming assistant principal in 2018. Her husband, Thomas, and four of their children are St. Clare alumni.

Originally from California, Hansen’s undergraduate degree is from the University of California at Davis and holds a master’s in educational leadership at Florida Atlantic University. Most recently assistant principal at St. Vincent Ferrer in Delray Beach, he has also taught at The Benjamin School, St. Mark’s Episcopal School and Cardinal Newman High School.

Kissel’s move to St. Joan of Arc School in Boca Raton, replacing Lani Hiponia as principal, is a homecoming. Kissel previously worked at St. Joan for more than seven years as media coordinator and dean of discipline and student affairs.

With more than 20 years of local Catholic school experience, Kissel earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University, a master’s in elementary education from NOVA Southeastern University and an education specialist degree in educational leadership from Barry University, in addition to Florida teaching certificates in elementary education, educational media specialist and educational leadership.

The positions of president and principal have been filled on an interim basis at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach. John Clarke, who served 20 years as a teacher, dean of students, assistant principal and principal at Cardinal Newman, has returned as president, replacing Christian Brother Thomas Zoppo. And Ed Curtin, theology teacher and department chair, has been named principal, replacing Wes Logsdon.

Clarke, who will continue in his role as associate superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Palm Beach, holds a bachelor’s degree in English and theology from St. John’s University, a master’s in English literature from Hofstra University and an education specialist degree in educational leadership from Florida Atlantic University.

Curtin has degrees in education and pastoral studies and has worked as a faculty member at the college level. In addition to serving as a Catholic school teacher, he has experience as a high school athletic director, director of youth ministry and director of the Christian Leadership Institute in the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, where he served as president of Mercyhurst Preparatory School.

Gary Gelo, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Palm Beach, said he is pleased to welcome the administrators to their new positions.

“We’re very blessed to have these exceptional leaders step into these positions,” he said. “They each bring years of educational experience to their new roles that will be of great benefit to the children and families served at each school. Most importantly, they are strong role models of the Catholic faith.”

For more information about Catholic schools in the diocese, visit or follow on Facebook at “Diocese of Palm Beach, Office of Catholic Schools.”