In Ventura: Husband-wife principals share ministry of caring
They will tell you — truthfully so — it is by coincidence that they became principals at the elementary and high schools sharing the same location in Ventura, adjacent to Our Lady of the Assumption Church. But Pat and Marc Groff’s years of dedication to Catholic education and to instilling a strong sense of service in their students was no coincidence at all, and it is those qualities that make them stand out as both a couple and as individuals.
They met early in their careers while on the faculty of Bishop Amat High School in La Puente. After they married, Marc was offered an opportunity to be head basketball coach and teacher at St. Bonaventure High School, so they moved to Ventura and became active parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption.
Pat became assistant headmaster at Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, and then principal at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Ventura. Marc’s leadership skills in secondary education led to his next assignment as vice principal at Santa Clara High School in Oxnard, where he was working at the time that Pat — who was eager to get back into a Catholic school — was hired as principal of Our Lady of the Assumption School in 2004. In 2007 St. Bonaventure High School needed a principal, and Marc was appointed to fill the position.
They may be working on the same archdiocesan property, but these two professionals aren’t spending a lot of time together.
“We rarely see each other during the day,” Pat says. “We both get very focused and involved in what’s going on in our own school and with our students. We’re both very hands-on. I do recess and lunch duty every day; we both step in and substitute in a pinch. If something happens in the parking lot we might both run outside, but other than an occasional text message or call, we don’t see each other.”
Still, there are benefits to both schools in having a married couple heading the two campuses and student bodies.
“We bounce a lot of ideas off of each other,” explains Marc, “and we’re in collaboration if there’s a problem in the community, such as a criminal on the loose or something of that nature. We not only care about each other, we care about each other’s students.”
The results of idea sharing can be service opportunities, some of which are also parish-based projects to benefit the community. Their work earned them “Partners In Service” honors from Catholic Charities/Ventura County.
“Something that we’re always doing with the young children is teaching them that they have an obligation to give back,” Pat says. “God has given us talents and gifts and all of the good fortune that we have, and it is our obligation to share that and turn it back around and do for others.”
Marc and Pat say they love what they do and the students they work with, which is very clear from their 37 years of service in Catholic education. They believe one of the best ways to teach is by ‘walking the walk’ themselves.
“We support each other in our work as well,” Marc explains. “For example, sometimes Pat gives up weekend time to attend a high school event. We believe in being examples in everything we do, and we hope students and their families will see us as living examples of our faith.”