It was in 1997 when Jim Segredo, Vice President at St. Rita High School at the time, “got the bug” to become a school principal. He saw an ad in the Chicago Tribune, sent his resume to a Lombard post office box - and the rest is history! Twenty-five years later, Jim Segredo is celebrating his monumental time at Montini Catholic (and 45 years in Catholic education).
Jim’s aspirations were set on attending law school initially. "After graduating from Lewis University I was accepted to John Marshall Law School and was planning on starting law school in late September of 1977. "I did get a BA in Social Studies as well, along with my teaching certificate, in case law school didn't work out," he says. "I had many terrific teachers and coaches as role models in grade school, high school and college so becoming a teacher was something that I was also interested in."
It was a call from Dr. Don Racky, Jr., Chair of St Rita’s English Department, that set him on the path towards teaching. “Don asked if I would be interested in a summer school Social Studies teaching position. So I taught US History and World History for two months and really enjoyed the experience.” While preparing to enter law school he got another call - and an offer of a teaching position at St. Rita for the 77-78 school year. He took the offer with plans to attend law school in the evening. “I had to agree to coach soccer and track which I knew nothing about at the time!”
"As was the case with my summer school teaching experience, I really enjoyed my first two weeks of teaching and coaching and being part of the St. Rita community - so when it was time to start law school I decided to postpone it for a year and concentrate on teaching." During his second year of teaching, however, Jim found himself even more involved with the school and his enthusiasm never dimmed. In 1981 he made the decision to pursue a career in education and got his Masters in Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. “Law school still beckons me. My dad (God rest his soul), for many years, would always ask me - ‘so, when are you going to law school?’”
Answering the ad in 1997 for a Western Suburban Catholic High School seeking a principal - Jim was not aware of what school he was applying to. "After about a week, I received a call from Brother Thomas Harding and that is when I knew it was Montini Catholic. Brother Tom used to work at De La Salle in Chicago so we knew each other from Archdiocese of Chicago and Catholic League events." When the position was offered, Jim found himself a little reluctant. "I didn't realize how tough it would be to leave St.Rita after 20 years as a graduate, teacher and administrator. Brother Tom was great and he gave me the time I needed to decide and after spending a low profile day at Montini, with the students and faculty, it really felt right to me and I accepted the position three weeks after the initial interview."
As principal of Montini, Jim was determined to reduce class size by adding more teachers to the faculty. He also increased class time by six minutes and increased graduation requirements, adding 3 years of Science and 2 years of World Language. He added more AP classes to the curriculum, established the Signum Fidei Program and brought the Kairos Retreat program to Montini. He also began Montini Catholic's now 25 year tradition of hosting a Golden Gobbler Thanksgiving Food Drive every November.
The two biggest challenges of becoming Principal at Montini, according to Jim, were learning its culture and leading a coed school. “I am very grateful to Kathy Filipiak and Maryann O'Neill, my two assistant principals. They were great partners in helping navigate these and other challenges in my early years as principal." Under Jim’s leadership, Montini’s Campus Ministry and Technology programs flourished with the hiring of Mike Blanchette and Pete Farina ‘87. Maryann O’Neill was appointed Assistant Principal and Mike Bukovsky was moved to the Admissions Office to work with Kim (Caffarelli) Richmond ‘81 - growing Montini’s enrollment significantly in the process (almost 20% in four years). ‘Dr. K’ - Mike Kisicki was also brought on board as a member of the faculty.
While Principal, Jim also facilitated the opening of Montini's 300 Wing and the Field House.
“There have been so many great memories as principal over the years that it’s hard to choose. It was great announcing a free day for the student body in celebration of our first IHSA State Championship (Wrestling, 2000). I also got to experience our first Football Championship in 2004 - the school spirit and enthusiasm was truly unforgettable. After we won, the 'Montini Nation' took over the hospitality tent area at the University of Illinois - there was a sea of maroon and gold everywhere - all super excited for Monitini and Coach A.” Jim was also witness to Montini's first Baseball team going to state (finishing third) under Head Coach Bill Leeberg. "Another great memory for me is going to cheer on our Broncettes at state and handing out chocolate roses to the team. It's a tradition I began when I was principal and I haven't missed a year since!"
Jim is very honored to have been a part Montini’s first graduation ceremony in the Field House as well. He will also never forget the day Student Council President Mac Brandt and Class of 1998 peers Mike Allegretti, Brian Dobry and Mike Modjeski brought a live turkey (in a cage) to school to turn it for the Golden Gobbler Food Drive. “The turkey bit Allegretti on the finger when they were bringing it to the auditorium!”
"A 'not so great' memory that quickly comes to mind is when the engines in the power plant would shut down. When I became principal, I wondered why all the teachers had flashlights in their rooms, the first time the engines shut down, I knew why. That was something the committee forgot to mention in the principal interview.” (The engines have since been replaced.)
“Leading the school on 9/11 was a very emotional day, and one I’ll never forget. We all did our best to keep everyone calm and to reach out and help those students who may have had parents traveling on a plane that day. Our faculty and staff did a great job. I remember getting on the PA and letting the students know what was happening and how we prayed together. "
In 2004, with the resignation of Brother Thomas, Jim became Montini’s 2nd President, naming Maryann O’Neill as Principal.
As president he has successfully led three Capital campaigns during this 18 year span. The 'Celebrate Our Future Building on Success Campaign' propelled Montini into the future with the addition of the Academic & Administrative Center, the renovation of the Campus Ministry Center, art studios, Student Services Center, cafeteria and auditorium. Jim also oversaw the renovation of Duffy Memorial Stadium and the baseball field. With the 50th Anniversary Campaign in 2016 came the renovation of classrooms, locker rooms, the Ed and Pam Mack LRC (Learning Resource Center) as well as the creation of the Kazma Innovation Center and the Blessed Mother Prayer garden.
From leading the first Habitat for Humanity Service trip, to celebrating the lights at Duffy Stadium in 2010 (thus ushering in Friday Night Light Football), to performing with the Treble Makers onstage at the Christmas concert, President Jim Segredo has seen and done it all over his last 25 years at Montini Catholic.
He has celebrated many highs including the school's 50th Anniversary year-long celebrations (2015-16), but also has experienced devastating lows, mourning the passing of students and colleagues (Johnny Weiger '15 in 2012 and Taylor Williams '16 in 2016). The sudden death of Head Varsity Coach Daryl Thomas in 2018 was also a time of great sorrow throughout the Montini Catholic community. "These tragedies have been difficult to navigate, but have brought us together and made us stronger over the years - being there for each other," he says.
Jim says he will also never forget these past two years of managing a high school throughout the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I am so proud of - and will never forget - our last two senior classes and how they handled the adversity. Our students are still dealing with the impact - I am continuously in awe of their strength and resilience."
“Jim has several mantras that we have learned over the years, like - ‘we teach bell to bell,’ ‘the student is the subject,’ and he added the Lasallian motto ‘touching hearts’ to his repertoire,” said Maryann O’Neill. “I know him to be a man who is passionate about helping children, a visionary who wants the best for his students and a superb role model for the entire school, faculty, staff and students. Jim is a big idea person, he has the ability to forecast and plan and execute expansions to the building as well as his spectacular special events. Who else do you know that would bring a truckload of hay into a school building for a parent social in October?”
“The desire to always put the students first is who Jim Segredo is as an educator,” adds current Principal Kevin Beirne. “His tireless work fundraising for our school community always has one aim - to create the best school community possible. I can honestly say, without a doubt, that Jim works harder in that endeavor than anyone I’ve ever worked with. He truly sets the standard for dedication to his vocation as a Lasallian educator. He often encourages the rest of us to touch the hearts of our students. Not only does he preach this Lasallian tenet, he lives it day in and day out, touching not only the hearts of students, but of the rest of us as well!