A father of 10 children, ages preschool to postgraduate, is rarely in search of fresh challenges when there is precious personal and professional downtime in the dusk-to-dawn demands of the day-to-day world.
John Rocha ‘89 is proving himself the exception by any variety of definitions and an elite manager beyond compare.
In August he was appointed as the founding president and principal of Ozark Catholic Academy, the first-ever Catholic high school in northwest Arkansas, a grassroots work in progress for more than two decades.
Rocha is currently leading the charge as a self-described “one-man show.”
“I’m forming the board of directors … raising $500,000 by December … hiring an assistant headmaster to help me recruit students for when we open in the fall of 2018.
“And we’re looking for $3-5 million from donors over the next 18 months to buy land and build buildings.”
Rocha wasn’t on the outlook to relocate from Houston where he has maintained a visible profile and steady influence in the ranks of Catholic education for more than two decades. But the pull to establish a school’s mission, vision and philosophy from ground zero proved far more forceful than mere intrigue.
“I feel like I’m called,” Rocha said. “I’m a teacher first and foremost and I hope to take my understanding of Catholic education, particularly what I learned at St.Thomas, and share it with a new community in the Ozarks. My instructors in high school truly instilled in me what it takes to become a young man. Now my goal is to assemble the same kind of mentors and duplicate a similar experience in Arkansas.”
Ozark Catholic has been approved to align itself with the Diocese of Little Rock but will not be financially supported.
Rocha knows the daunting drill, helping found a comparable independent Catholic institution in Houston at all-boys Western Academy where he served as the director of development since 2009. During his tenure Rocha implemented capital campaign initiatives and raised nearly $10 million, while assembling a faculty and staff, and managing daily operations and communications at the school.
“I said two years into that experience at Western that I would never do it again,” Rocha laughed.
“And yet, seven years later here I am, doing it again. I have the background that very few candidates have that I can apply that into our startup.”
Rocha packs a wealth of extensive Catholic school experience for his next opportunity, including responsibilities in lower, middle and high schools, while also serving as an adjunct professor of literature at the University of St. Thomas.
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.