For 18 years, the country's oldest Catholic mission school, St Joseph's Institution (SJI), has had laymen as principals. This will change next year, when Reverend Father Dr Adrian Augustus Danker, 50, takes over from Dr Koh Thiam Seng.
Dr Koh, who has helmed SJI since 2008, became its second lay principal after Mr Benjamin Lui, who assumed the role in 1997.
Father Adrian, who was ordained a Jesuit priest in 2013, is among 21 newly appointed principals under the Ministry of Education's (MOE's) annual reshuffle.
In all, 62 schools will get new heads next year, MOE announced yesterday, adding that the "process of systematically appointing and rotating principals allows schools to benefit from the infusion of fresh perspectives".
An old boy of SJI, Father Adrian returned to the school in June last year as its deputy principal.
He previously taught at Telok Kurau Secondary School and Catholic Junior College, and had worked in MOE's planning division. He joined the Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests and brothers, in 2001.
SJI belongs to the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a Catholic order that focuses on education. Up till 1997, its principals were LaSallian brothers.
Professor Tan Cheng Han, chairman of the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools here, said the priority is to have the best possible person who is professional, of high integrity, competent and committed to the Catholic ethos, take on principalship at mission schools.
"If they are from a religious order, that is a bonus," he said, adding that Dr Koh has been an "outstanding principal who further strengthened the quality of the school and her Catholic ethos".
While Prof Tan is heartened by Father Adrian's appointment, he noted there is "nothing to indicate any reversal of the declining number of people entering Catholic orders, which in turn affects the number that will be involved in education".
Meanwhile, the principals of Greendale Primary School in Punggol and the School of Science and Technology (SST) in Clementi will step down after a year at the helm.
Bukit Panjang Primary principal Ng Soh Hua will move to Greendale, taking over from Mrs Sabrina James. Madam Linda Chua, principal of Deyi Secondary, will replace Mr Hoe Wee Meng at SST.
Mr Hoe, 37, told The Straits Times he is moving to the Prime Minister's Office as a director in its Strategy Group, a newly formed unit. He said he was "privileged" to have served at SST, which had seen "remarkable growth". "I am humbled to be given the opportunity to take stock of SST's growth and lay the foundation for the next phase of (its) development..." he said.
Another school to get a newly appointed principal is Tampines Secondary. Mr Shane Kwok, previously a vice-principal of Innova Junior College, will replace Mr Balamurugan Krishnasamy, who is moving to Pasir Ris Crest Secondary.
Mr Kwok, 39, a mathematics and physical education teacher, said: "I hope to focus not just on academics, but also on helping the students discover their passion."
This article was first published on October 8, 2015.
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