Written by Kim MacGregor
As students at Visitation School settle back into classroom learning, their new principal is tackling his own assignment: learning all their names.
Christopher Dransoff—Dr. D, as the children call him—became the new principal at the Catholic grade school in July, bringing with him more than 35 years of experience in education, with 31 as a principal.
Most recently, Dransoff spent nine years as principal at Hadley Junior High School in Glen Ellyn. Before that he’d been at the helm of Lincoln Elementary School, also in Glen Ellyn. As a result of his leadership there, the school earned Blue Ribbon School status the year after he left. He also spent time as principal at public schools in Bartlett and Park Ridge.
Dransoff says coming to Visitation feels like a homecoming. A product of 12 years of Catholic education himself, he spent the first 14 years of his career in Catholic schools in Chicago, as a teacher, then an administrator. His first job as a principal was at Nativity of Our Lord School on the city’s South Side (now part of Bridgeport Catholic Academy).
Born and raised in Chicago, Dransoff received his undergraduate degree in education and his master’s in guidance and counseling from Northeastern University. He also holds doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University.
The opportunity to have a direct impact on children’s lives is what drew Dransoff to Visitation.
“For a principal, it’s ideal," he said. "In a smaller setting, you can really make a difference—which is really why you do the job.”
An empty seat now sits in each classroom for “Dr. D” to take whenever he drops by class. He doesn’t want to interrupt learning but will ask students questions about what they’re studying.
“Leader, listener, always puts the kids first … they’re qualities that made him a standout candidate,” says Fr. Scott Huggins, Visitation Parish pastor.
A search committee recommended Dransoff to Huggins after a months-long process. Primarily comprised of experienced educators, the group included Kathleen Tomei, principal of Lincoln School in Elmhurst.
A week into the job, Dransoff is enjoying being back in a school where students range from preschool to eighth grade.
“It brings out the best in the older kids,” he says. “You can take the goofiest junior high boy, and when you pair him with a first-grader, you see a whole new side.”
Best of all is the chance to teach from a faith perspective, he said.
“It’s more than just religion class; it’s infused throughout the day. Our staff are here because it’s a vocation for them, a whole different level of caring and commitment. That depth of purpose rounds out who a child is.”
Dransoff acknowledges he steps into big shoes. Sister Thomas Leo Monahan, the school’s principal for nearly 40 years, is now retired and still part of the parish community. Her legacy was evident in the manners and respect students displayed as they met their new principal during an ice cream social over the summer.
“I was impressed with how they introduced themselves and asked me questions that I wanted to ask them,” he says. “It was very nice to see that formality—that really struck me.”
Dransoff and his wife, Lynn, live in the Fox Valley and have a college-age son and daughter. He says the commute to Elmhurst is well worth the payoff.
“I’m as pumped up to start here as I was 30 years ago,” he says. “It reinvigorates you. As challenging as it’s going to be, it’s going to be fun.”