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Bonat to leave Bishop Brady, Concord’s Catholic high school

  • Bishop Brady principal Trevor Bonat chats with students that have a table for an anti-bullying campaign set up outside the school cafeteria on Thursday, April 3, 2014. After five years at the helm, Bonat is leaving Bishop Brady to start another job as principal of an all-boys Jesuit school in St. Louis. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bishop Brady principal Trevor Bonat chats with students that have a table for an anti-bullying campaign set up outside the school cafeteria on Thursday, April 3, 2014. After five years at the helm, Bonat is leaving Bishop Brady to start another job as principal of an all-boys Jesuit school in St. Louis.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bishop Brady principal Trevor Bonat stands at the exit to school cafeteria after lunch gets out on Thursday, April 3, 2014. After five years at the helm, Bonat is leaving Bishop Brady to start another job as principal of an all-boys Jesuit school in St. Louis. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bishop Brady principal Trevor Bonat stands at the exit to school cafeteria after lunch gets out on Thursday, April 3, 2014. After five years at the helm, Bonat is leaving Bishop Brady to start another job as principal of an all-boys Jesuit school in St. Louis.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bishop Brady principal Trevor Bonat chats with students that have a table for an anti-bullying campaign set up outside the school cafeteria on Thursday, April 3, 2014. After five years at the helm, Bonat is leaving Bishop Brady to start another job as principal of an all-boys Jesuit school in St. Louis. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bishop Brady principal Trevor Bonat stands at the exit to school cafeteria after lunch gets out on Thursday, April 3, 2014. After five years at the helm, Bonat is leaving Bishop Brady to start another job as principal of an all-boys Jesuit school in St. Louis. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

When an ethics class at Bishop Brady High School needed a substitute teacher in January, Principal Trevor Bonat volunteered to pinch-hit.

He filled in for five weeks, and the opportunity strengthened his connection to the student body at Concord’s only Catholic high school.

“I had forgotten about the whole idea that you can learn more from your students when you teach than what the students learn from you,” Bonat said Thursday. “We learn so much from each other. There’s a reciprocity here that is very powerful.”

This, he said, is Bishop Brady in a nutshell. It is also what initially drew him to Concord to lead a school that enrolls 350 students from more than 60 communities.

Bonat announced last month that he is leaving at the end of the school year after five years at the helm. In July, he will begin a new job as principal at a Jesuit high school in St. Louis.

“For the past five years, Trevor Bonat has been a wonderful and dedicated school principal and educational leader for the Bishop Brady community,” said the Rev. John Fortin, superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. “He strongly supported the faith development of the students and promoted the

highest academic standards in the classroom.”

The diocese has formed a search committee and expects to fill the vacancy before the beginning of the 2014 school year.

Bonat came to Brady in 2009 from a boarding school in Connecticut. The camaraderie and caring among students struck him. So did the students’ academic drive.

“Frankly, I think I was just a custodian of a community that was already in place,” he said.

Over the course of Bonat’s tenure, Brady has deepened its core strengths, he said. The curriculum has been sharpened and now includes more critical thinking, and next year the school will roll out a bring-your-own-device program where students can use their tablets and computers for learning.

“When I first got here, we were nowhere close to being able to do that. Now we are at a place where we can pull it off with aplomb,” he said. The school is also prepared to welcome an accreditation team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

“Fundamentally, I feel like our learning and teaching here has gotten much more defined,” Bonat said. “Kids are complex, you know? You need to know more than just their academic needs in order to teach them successfully. You need to know their lives and that context in order to know what drives them.”

Alumni involvement is at an all-time high, as evidenced by contributions to renovate the courtyard and significant increases in overall alumni donations. Bonat has also encouraged retreats and reflection, which has strengthened the school’s Catholic identity.

But students such as senior Nate Daneault of Bedford will miss Bonat for reasons simpler than curriculum development and alumni support.

“He’s always asking how your day went, and you get the sense he really cares and he’s not just saying it because it’s his job,” Daneault said. “He’s honestly one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”

It is Bonat who sees students in the hallways and congratulates them on good grades and big plays.

“I’m leaving, so it’s not going to affect me, but I think it’s terrible Brady is going to lose him,” Daneault said.

Daneault was seated at a cafeteria table during study hall with Spanish teacher Cara Tommasino, who has known Bonat since she started as a student teacher at Brady four years ago while studying at St. Anselm College.

“I think that’s his favorite part of the job,” she said of Bonat’s interactions with students. “I can definitely safely say that is one of his greatest strengths.”

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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