From auditor to president of a high school

Written on Jul 16, 2020

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

For Joseph Patrick, CPA, accounting has led him to an unexpected but welcome opportunity: president of Cristo Rey Columbus High School. 

“I never thought in a million years that I would be offered this job,” he said. 

Patrick is uniquely suited for the role, as he had been the lead partner on the Cristo Rey audit since 2014 and was familiar with the school’s procedures and processes.   

He spent much of his career at Schneider Downs and as a partner, knew retirement was coming soon. While working with Cristo Rey last fall, Patrick learned Jim Foley, the school’s president, would be also be retiring soon. That’s when he said his “wheels started spinning.” 

Despite not having formal training in education, he said he’s always been interested in the area and his father, a steel worker who was never able to finish high school, instilled in him the value of education. 

After speaking with the search firm and having meetings about the role, Patrick said each time he became more intrigued by the job and was eventually offered the position in the spring. 

Along with a working knowledge of Cristo Rey from his time as an auditor, his CPA experience translates well as he’s familiar with handling various stakeholders and hearing differing perspectives.   

“We have work study partners, we have state participation and our sponsor is the Diocese of Columbus,” he said. “There are a lot of different stakeholders and they have different goals and we need to marry those together. It's kind of like what I did for my clients.” 

He officially started on July 1, and said it’s been interesting stepping into education at a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has made teaching a more nuanced task.  

He acknowledged the disruption to the school environment, work study program and other aspects have made things complicated, but he isn’t deterred by the current time. 

“I'm going to get immersed fairly quickly in the operations of the school and get a quick education,” Patrick said. “So from my way of thinking, I could understand why people think it's a difficult time, but I don't think there could be a better time to start. I don't mind jumping in and solving problems, I find it stimulating.” 

Cristo Rey offers a work study program and Patrick said many of the companies involved are located in downtown Columbus, and they’ve been tasked with figuring out new ways students can still participate while being safe.   

Stepping into the new role doesn’t mean he’ll be entirely on his own, however, as he has a variety of resources available. He said he plans to connect with Foley, a network of fellow Cristo Rey peers and a board of trustees whenever he has questions. 

He said he’s looking forward to continuing to build the corporate partner base, and to offer the best education possible for students while working together as a team of faculty and staff. 

“At the end of the day, all those different things are targeted toward providing the best education we can to our students,” Patrick said. “I'm very interested in learning more and trying to assist in that process.” 

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