Just a few months ago, Joseph Salamack was living a block away from celebrities in sunny Oakland, Calif. He was principal of a private Catholic school where he knew everyone and had spent 10 years working in the Diocese of Oakland and its schools.

But when the opportunity came to return to Johnstown, his hometown in the Albany Diocese, he leapt at the chance.

Mr. Salamack is the new head of school for Bishop Maginn High School in Albany.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to work for this diocese and for Sister Jane Herb, the superintendent," said Mr. Salamack. "I felt it was the place I should be. It's an urban Catholic school with a diverse community; I'm familiar with this area - and the people here are wonderful."

In his 30 years in education, Mr. Salamack has taught at plenty of urban Catholic schools with great success. He hopes to put those years of experience to good use.

Local history
Growing up, he attended Catholic schools: St. Patrick's School in Johnstown, St. Bonaventure University and The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

The Vincentian Sisters who taught him influenced Mr. Salamack's decision to become an educator himself. "I loved the values and morals taught at Catholic school and I'm a product of it," he noted. "My parents made the sacrifice to send their kids there because it was important to them, and it's important to me, too."

Mr. Salamack's new role at Bishop Maginn will allow him to share his enthusiasm for Catholic education and use it to help other parents and students make the same choice themselves.

As head of school, he will be in charge of the finance and marketing of the school and its ties to the community.

"I have a lot of experience in marketing and it's an exciting endeavor we've begun here," he said. "We have to go out and let people know we're a viable choice in Catholic education."

Mr. Salamack's plans for the school have already been set in motion, from his endeavor to provide laptops and iPads for the students to his efforts to reboot the school's marketing campaign through radio, television, billboards, signs and a new format for their open houses and visitations.

Value for money
"Many people appreciate Catholic education because of the morals and values it teaches, but not all of the students are Catholic, so we need to let parents know what else they can get for their money along with the values," said Mr. Salamack. "If people know that you're working hard to offer a 21st-century education, they'll want their kids at your school."

The new head of school spent the summer directing renovations. Bishop Maginn now has a new guidance center for students and a student center where they can relax and socialize between classes.

Something as simple as opening the blinds on the windows is important, Mr. Salamack noted: "I've heard from different people that, when they drive by and see the blinds closed, they think the school is empty, so something as simple as opening the blinds and letting them know that people are here, that the school is alive, is important."

The newcomer said he's not nervous about beginning the school year, just excited. Having been welcomed by other area administrators and Bishop Maginn staff already, he remarked that "I just hope they see me as a breath of fresh air and a different set of eyes, not the 'change freak.' Change is really good for people. This school is going to change, and that's good."