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St. Ambrose Academy Announces New Head of School

As it celebrates its twentieth year as a Madison-area Catholic school for Grades 6-12, St. Ambrose Academy is experiencing extraordinary growth, our student body more than doubling in the last five years to a projected enrollment of 225. This summer, as we prepare to move into our new home at Holy Name Heights and welcome the dawn of a new era, we are expanding staff leadership in a significant way.

We are thrilled to announce that after twenty years, we are creating a new top-level position: Head of School, reporting to the Executive Director under the Board of Directors. The new Head will provide on-the-ground management of all school operations, enhancing unity of purpose, excellence of communication, synchronization of effort, and alignment to mission. Stepping into this important new role is Mr. John Scudder.

The son of schoolteachers, John has had a fundamental love of teaching throughout his entire 50-year career. His goal is to provide faith-based leadership, maintain effective classical educational programs, and promote first-rate teaching and learning within our school.

John brings a significant amount of administrative expertise to St. Ambrose Academy. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army following 21 years of service. John is a transformational leader, successful in synchronizing large, complex organizations for educational, corporate, military, and geographically separated operational environments. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and has a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. John was also an instructor for the U.S. Military Academy’s only required college course in leadership and management.

Once John retired from the military, he served 14 years as a supply chain executive as well as a school administrator for a 9,600-student school district. He also functioned as a senior leader advisor supporting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) military Land Forces. More recently, he worked as the Chief of Staff of a US-leading international monitoring and verification mission in South Sudan.

As he contemplated retirement, John walked the Camino to discern what God was calling him to next. “I still have 10-15 years in me,” he smiled, exemplifying his belief that we are called to lead through service. “Following Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Talents,” he said, “I want to put my life in God’s service.” He knew God had given him significant professional leadership and administrative gifts and experiences, and he desired nothing more than to put those skills to work for the good of others. Inspired by his brother, who gave up a six-figure salary to teach at a classical Catholic school in California, John began to teach at a Catholic school in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When he and his wife moved to Madison this year, he began substitute teaching at St. Ambrose Academy. He was immediately attracted by the culture: “The uniforms, class prayers, daily Mass, the positive environment, parental involvement, and the joyful students have all inspired me,” he said. The first time he entered a classroom of St. Ambrose upperclassmen to teach religion, as he eagerly dove into the topic of the day, one of the students gently reminded him to remember to begin the class with prayer. This impressed him greatly and convinced him that St. Ambrose Academy was where he was called to serve as a disciple of Jesus Christ. “The Holy Spirit has played a role in my decision,” he observed.

He is excited about how fully the Catholic faith is integrated into the life of the school and looks forward to adhering to the goal of academic excellence. In particular, he is drawn to the classical pedagogical model the Academy employs. “The classical method trains students to be self-learners and critical thinkers. I want to participate in this process!”

John has been married to the former Cindy Evans for 35 years. They have three boys: Jack (34), a US Army Major who teaches at West Point, Luke (31) a Captain in the 3/75 Ranger Battalion, and Ben (27), a software engineer in Madison.

“I am dedicated to building and sustaining the beautiful community of families who have entrusted their children to our academy for their formation,” John said. “In this way, I look forward to serving the faculty, students, parents, alumni, benefactors, and the greater school community.”

Growing School and Growing Staff

As the school continues to grow into a more robust leadership structure, current principal Scott Schmiesing will take on a new leadership role, Director of Operations, along with his continuing title of Athletic Director. With the Academy’s move to Holy Name Heights and its gym and fields (amenities the school has never before had onsite), Scott will also finally have means to grow our athletic program to serve soul and body in our young people in a more complete way, something we have long wanted to achieve.

To round out next year’s staffing expansion, the Academy is also thrilled to welcome Joel Kurth, CFA, to the new role of Business Manager. Joel has served St. Ambrose Academy as a math teacher and on the Finance Committee. He was formerly an institutional investment manager, mostly in the New York City area. He began his career as an industry analyst, before creating and managing two large capitalization growth equities strategies for corporate, public, foundation, and labor union clients. He also participated in managing a long/short equities mutual fund.

Joel graduated from UW-Madison with a B.B.A. and M.S. in Business, majoring in Finance, Investment and Banking, and is nearing completion of his M.A. degree in Catholic Studies from Franciscan University (Steubenville). He currently serves on the Board of Directors and Investment Committee for the Catholic Diocese of Madison Foundation, and on the Finance Committee for St. Ambrose Academy.

Joel and his wife Darla have four children; the oldest is a St. Ambrose Academy graduate. He credits SAA for playing a role in the renewal of his Catholic faith and appreciates the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness that fills the school.

John Scudder

Head of School


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