New principal follows God’s calling to Nolan Catholic High School
FORT WORTH — Oscar Ortiz is thrilled to be the new principal at Nolan Catholic High School because he sensed God leading him to move from a secular setting to a faith-based campus.
After working for more than a decade as an educator and administrator in public classical education charter schools, Ortiz is ready to lead the instruction of the “fullness of faith” in Catholic education.
Teaching classical education in a secular setting allowed students only a partial view of beauty, goodness, and truth.
“To me, Catholic education is superior,” he said. “The reason it is superior is it includes the fullness of faith.”
While most schools prepare students for college or a career, the focus of a Catholic classical education is all of life, with a particular focus on the end of life.
“We’re not focused on preparing students for one part of life. We’re preparing students for union with God. Because of that, we’re able to order and prioritize in line with that end,” Ortiz said.
Work isn’t an end in itself, but a means to glorify God. And that can happen in all kinds of vocations, even the most modern and technical careers, he said.
The goal at Nolan is unity with God and a relationship with Christ, so “the focus is the character of each one of us.
“If the end is unity with Christ, the concern is the human heart,” he said.
A top young leader in classical education
Born and raised in Honduras, Ortiz came to the United States at age 19 and attended the University of Dallas where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He was so inspired by what he learned that he wanted to become a philosophy professor.
But meeting his wife-to-be, Natalie, during college put him on a faster path to earn a living for his family. A chance meeting with a recruiter on the UD campus landed him a job as a teacher at a classical education charter school in Arizona. Ortiz had to learn American history to teach his middle school students, and he also taught ancient history, which he loved.
During those years, he also earned a master’s degree in liberal arts, philosophy, and religious studies from St. John’s College in Maryland.
Then he came to Texas to become an assistant principal at a Great Hearts Charter School in San Antonio, later working as a leader in a few other public charter schools. Most recently he was superintendent of Heritage Classical Academy in Houston, which is still seeking charter approval from the Texas State Board of Education. Although the commissioner of education recommended approval, the request was denied by a vote of 8-6.
The setback prompted Ortiz to remain open to new opportunities. A friend told him about the opening at Nolan, and everything just seemed to fall into place.
He knew Brinton Smith, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Fort Worth, from when they both were administrators at Great Hearts Charter Schools and at Founders Classical Academy.
Smith praised Ortiz for his strong Catholic educational background at UD and St. John’s, his devout faith, and his years of leadership experience.
“He’s known as one of the best young headmasters in classical education,” Smith said. “We’re fortunate that with Nolan Catholic, we were able to woo him to the diocese.”
Ortiz and his wife Natalie have three children, ages 7, 5, and 3. They are looking for a home in Fort Worth after moving from San Antonio.
A calling to serve teachers
When Ortiz started as Nolan principal earlier this summer, he hit the ground running. His top priority has been to serve the teachers at Nolan, thereby making the school better for students and families.
“I have a vocation for serving teachers,” he said. “It is very common for a principal to make students a priority. Serving students and serving teachers are intricately connected. By serving teachers, we will be serving students well.”
Smith said he’s hearing great things from teachers and other Nolan community members who have interacted with Ortiz.
“He’s already doing great things, and I’ve heard from many people about how much they like him,” Smith said. “He’s especially good at working with teachers, and training and coaching teachers.”
For Ortiz, the opportunity at Nolan is a dream come true.
“I’ve never been more fulfilled than I am today,” he said. “God has been preparing me for a role at Nolan Catholic.”