9/10 Update from Cathy Callahan

September 10, 2021 

Dear Saint Dominic Academy Community, 

Based on the recommendation of the Interim Search Committee, acceptance by the Board of Trustees and approval  and appointment of the Prioress and Council of The Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, we are pleased to  announce that Elizabeth (Liz) Christou-Woodall will serve as Interim Head of School of Saint Dominic Academy. 

Liz comes to us a proven leader in education with considerable depth and experience as both an educator and  administrator. Liz served for 28 years in increasingly senior roles at Kent Place School, an All-Girls non denominational K-12 College Prep School located in Summit, NJ. During her last 13 years at Kent Place, Liz was  the Upper School Director. Throughout her KPS journey, Liz taught middle school and 9th grade, coached  basketball, founded the Girls Leadership Institute, was the first Dean of Students, and supported innovative  curriculum development and increased enrollment. Liz started her teaching career at St. Luke’s in the South Bronx  as part of her service in the Jesuit Volunteer Corp. She also taught at Our Lady Help of Christians in East Orange.  Most recently Liz established the position as Director of Development for Bridges Outreach, a not-for-profit entity dedicated to outreach and support for the Homeless. She is a Board Trustee at Newark Academy and chairs the  security committee. 

Liz is a woman of deep faith who is committed to carrying forward the Dominican pillars and the mission of Saint  Dominic Academy. Liz attested to this in her application for the role. “Being back at a Catholic school and being in  a learning and service environment where faith matters and is embraced openly will bring out the best in me. My  faith, especially my devotion to Mary and reliance on the Holy Spirit, allows me to approach challenges with  strength and courage. Living the Dominican Catholic Identity through the four pillars of prayer, study, community  and ministry will be an extension of my daily existence.” Additionally, Liz is a strong advocate for girls’ education.  With 28 years of focus, Liz’s commitment to girls is unwavering. 

This news is the culmination of the search process that was conducted diligently over the summer. We determined  that, given our tight timeframe, an interim head would be in SDA’s best interest while we undertake the longer  process of searching for a permanent head. We put together an interim search committee, as we previously  communicated, comprised of Sisters and Board Trustees, and retained a search firm. We interviewed numerous  candidates from a larger pool and ultimately selected two finalists for consideration by the SDA community. We  carefully conducted interviews and personal reference checks and discerned feedback from faculty, administrators,  staff and Board Trustees. We are grateful that Liz has accepted the invitation to join us as Interim Head of School. 

We are thankful for everyone’s participation in this process and look forward to warmly welcoming Liz to SDA. As  we approach our 150th Anniversary this is an exciting development which allows us to step boldly into the future.  We are confident that Liz’s experience, enthusiasm and faith-inspired humility will ensure that the legacy of SDA  will grow and thrive for generations to come. 


Cathleen Callahan ‘73 

Chair, St Dominic Academy Board of Trustees

7/22 Letter From Cathy Callahan

Dear SDA Community:


I am writing to share with you that our Head of School, Sarah Degnan Barbi has resigned effective immediately for personal and family reasons. We share our best wishes for Sarah and her family and thank her for her five years of stewardship at 2572 Kennedy Boulevard.

The timing of this decision is less than optimal, however, the Board of Trustees and The Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell are dedicated to finding a new Head of School who will provide the leadership necessary to move us into the future while preserving our culture and values. Given the realities of a search calendar, it is necessary for us to look for an interim leader first for this coming academic year. To that end, we have formed a search committee and will expedite the selection of an Interim Head of School. We will establish a broader search process for a permanent Head of School beginning this fall. We have engaged and will partner with Educational Directions, a leading academic search firm to guide us in both search efforts.

We begin our 143rd year at SDA with a thriving student body of both upper and middle school students.  We have survived COVID, retooled the school to provide safety and security for our students, and have welcomed our new MEDQUEST program which will debut when school opens with brand new facilities and equipment.  Our athletic programs continued throughout the pandemic and our teams excelled despite the challenges.  Peter Pan flew through virtual space this spring, the Dance Team never stopped dancing and The Dominoes will be back together in song as we open full time in person in September. The Class of 2021 is successfully off to their next adventure and we welcome the 65 student strong Class of 2025 to our sisterhood. 

We will keep you updated as information becomes available.  We look forward to including the perspectives of all constituent groups as we move toward identifying a permanent replacement.  I know I speak for the Board when I share my appreciation for our tireless and dedicated administration, the faculty and staff who continue to educate and support our students.


Cathleen Callahan, ‘73

Board Chair

SDA Welcomes Soccer Coach Jessica Iorio and Assistant Coach Anne O’Brien

     St. Dominic Academy is proud to welcome Jessica Iorio as Head Soccer Coach for the 2020 season. Jessica is the eighth coach in team history which began in 1987. She is the fourth alumnae to direct the team. Iorio, a 2002 SDA graduate, was a four-year standout who made an impact on the team from her first days at the Academy. As a player she was described as determined, talented and proactive. She was a key member of St. Dominic Academy’s three-year HCIAA championship teams, who defeated Holy Family in 1999-2000 and Bayonne in 2001. She scored the winning goal in 2000.

     Following her time at SDA she was a four-year player at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut where she earned a degree in Finance and a soccer scholarship her junior and senior year. Jessica began her coaching career in 2006 working with and organizing a host of youth girl soccer clubs. The Bayonne native and current Jersey City resident coached Holy Family for 5 years prior to their closing in 2013. Her record with the Falcons was 52-49.

     The assistant coach for the Blue Devils will be Anne Dalton O’Brien a name familiar to Hudson County soccer followers for her fine work at SDA Ms. O’Brien, a 1965 graduate of the Academy, was asked to pitch in for the team’s second year and forged quite a resume at SDA. After humble
beginnings, the team at Anne’s direction greatly improved. She is the SDA leader in years served (18), wins, games coached, and most every other SDA soccer school record. O’Brien guided the Blue Devils to the three consecutive HCIAA titles from 1999-2001. Anne had a record of 169-139 with five ties. She has stayed active at her alma mater serving on numerous committees and alumnae boards since she left the program in 2005.

     The Blue Devils will be in good hands with the staff of Head Coach Jessica Iorio and Assistant Coach, Anne O’Brien.

Summer Building Hours

School Offices will remain closed until June 30, 2020. Staggered appointments can be made upon request and necessity.  Please contact the office you wish to meet with via their email address in the directory.  https://www.stdominicacad.com/about-sda/directory/

Sophomore Nicole Fitzgerald Earns NYIT Grant Award

 We are pleased announce that Nicole Fitzgerald have been selected for the Third Annual New York Institute of Technology Mini-Research Grant Award for her research proposal “Antibiotic Producers in Our Soil” with her mentor Cristina Manuel. Nicole’s proposal states, “Antibiotic resistance is a growing worldwide problem, as researchers are striving to find new anti-microbial agents. One common source is in soil, which contains microbes that fight other microbes. The aim of my science experiment was to collect and test soil samples from three major parks in Jersey City and identify potential antibiotic producers within the bacterial content.” The Grant Review committee determined her submission to have scientific merit and potential impact in the STEM fields, including health. We look forward to the conclusion of her grant research and submission. 


AP Art History Students Experience NYC Art and Culture

Ms. Lewis’ AP Art History and Studio Classes were treated to a day at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan to study a number of the museum’s collections. The group spent time at the Fifth Avenue locale studying art from the Classical World, Africa, Asia and South America. Once at the museum, the students were tasked with finding and examining several pieces of art, architecture and artifacts and determining how and why they were made, how they relate to each other and other works within AP Art History. As part of the assignment, they had to answer questions such as: What do you see that helps you know what the object is made of? How the object was formed? What do you see that is a clue to inform you when it was made? The trip was an opportunity for students to connect the art they discovered at The Met with the art they have been learning about in class.

SDA Swim Team Takes 3rd at the HCIL Swimming Championship.

Congratulations to the swim team on their 3rd place win at the HCIL Swimming Championship. Marcella Figueroa ’22 won both the 50 free and 100 free and breaking her own county record in the 50. Mia Martinko ‘23 took 2nd place in both the 200 M and the 500 Freestyle. Our 400 Free Relay took first place! That relay consisted of Mia Martinko ‘23, Gianna Artusa’21, Ella Scarsi ‘23, and Marcella Figueroa ‘22.

“Souper” Bowl Success Helps Fill Jersey City Food Pantry

Students at SDA were issued a challenge for this years “Souper Bowl” and were asked to collect 2020 cans to stock Our Lady of Sorrows Church’s food pantry in Jersey City.  With the help of faculty, students and friends SDA collected 3289 cans of soup and other non-perishables goods to help those in need.  





SDA Wins at Jersey City Cross Country Championship

St. Dominic Academy came away with yet another first place finish at the Jersey City Cross Country Championships at Lincoln Park.  The Blue Devils finished with 21 points and eight of the top ten runners in the race.  Kayla Sullivan 21’ who finished first had a 19:54.1 time and her teammate Suhayla Johnson 20’ came in second place with a 20:06.9 finish.  Avery Sullivan 21’ rounded out the top five with a 20:44.8 finish.  Congratulations to all of our runners on a successful season.

Students Participate in the IBM Academy of Technology STEM Live Simulcast

The 7th, 8th and 10th grade STEM classes joined the IBM Academy of Technology STEM Live Simulcast on Thursday, September 19th.  IBM’s STEM events focus on innovation, creativity, and motivating young minds to explore new problem-solving opportunities.

     This September, IBM’s Academy of Technology will host its annual public live stream STEM Event, led by IBM Fellow Rhonda Childress.  It will be the biggest event yet, with a live high school audience of 500 and over 20,000 connections expected over the public live stream!  It will be held again in Austin, Texas at one of IBM’s P-TECH high school partners, Juan Navarro High School.

     The theme this year is “THINK and Create the Extraordinary”.  The event is filled with passionate speakers, engaging demos, and lively calls to action that cover motivational technical topics including: Watson, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, circuits, cyber security, and more!