By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
PLANO—In 2003, when Thomas W. Poore and his wife, Ann, first got an eyeful of the site near what would become the John Paul II High School campus, they pledged to devote themselves to nurturing the first Dallas Diocesan Catholic high school to be built in more than 40 years.
Poore, who was appointed the founding president of the start-up school by then-Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann, had spent 30 years as an educator in North Texas public schools when the call came that returned him to his Catholic school roots and to a ministry he called a “tremendous blessing.”
But in the high school’s formative stages, it took great vision to picture the school that opened in 2005 and steadfastly spread the motto “Seek to Serve.”
“Fourteen years ago, I stepped out of the car and saw a very small, crumbling asphalt parking lot and a doublewide trailer,” Ann said. “I wondered about what kind of school would be built.”
On May 11, on a campus that serves an enrollment of 740 as a landmark of strong faith formation and academic excellence, Poore announced that he will retire on July 31. He will serve the school’s board of directors through June 30, 2018 and have the title of president emeritus.
An interim president will be named, Poore said.
Ann Poore also will retire this summer from her position as associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Dallas, where she has worked for four years.
Thomas Poore, who worked for the Garland Independent School District for 26 years, said that overseeing JPII from pre-construction to its status as an influential community servant required meeting numerous challenges.
“The biggest challenge was getting people to believe in coming to a new school that has no history and no traditions,” said Poore, a graduate of St. Monica Catholic School, Jesuit High School (now Jesuit College Preparatory School) and St. Edward’s University. “You’ve got to convince people to take a leap of faith and come to a school that nobody’s heard of. The second challenge was bringing students from so many places and creating a culture and environment that is John Paul II High School. You can only do that when there’s a clear vision.”
Allegiance to the school’s vision—“We will make a difference in the world by walking in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II”—has created a vibrant Catholic culture, Poore said.
“We have a huge responsibility with our namesake being John Paul II,” said Poore, a parishioner at St. Rita Catholic Church. “It’s more than a special responsibility. “It’s a sacred responsibility.”
Father Joshua Whitfield, the pastoral administrator of St. Rita Catholic Church, said that many parishioners have no idea of Poore’s deft leadership because of his humility in his parish service.
“People interact with him as an usher and a servant,” Father Whitfield said. “The man exudes leadership that is thoroughly Christian with a commitment to service. He is one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.”
Mary Templeton, a member of the JPII Board of Directors, said that Poore’s remarkable faith inspired the John Paul II community as he built one of the top high schools in North Texas.
“He never forgot that God comes first in his life,” she said. “He is the cornerstone of that school. He built the foundation for a very, very strong school that will continue to thrive. I think the most important thing is that he has committed his life to his combined belief in faith and the importance of education.
“He will be sorely missed.”
Nick Schiele, a 2008 graduate of JPII who teaches English at the school, said that Poore was a blessing to students.
Schiele said that Poore stayed in touch with him during his college years at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
“He’s been very instrumental in my growth personally and professionally,” said Schiele, who also is an assistant football coach at JPII. “I’m always in his office picking his brain. He’s been a great mentor. There’s this aura, this charisma about Mr. Poore that students just grab onto. He’s the same person as when I was a student, with the same energy and the same passion.”
Poore didn’t sound as if retirement will dent his energy and passion for his calling.
“When I went to college, I knew that I wanted to be in education,” he said. “I never have deviated from that.”