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President Search

President Search

In the summer of 2020, Brett Lowart announced his intention to retire, stepping down as President of Notre Dame High School at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, following 11 years of service. A search is now underway to find Notre Dame's next President who will be hired for a Summer 2021 start.

Communications to the ND Community

List of 6 items.

  • Notre Dame High School Names New President (February 10, 2021)

    Notre Dame High School is pleased to announce that after a comprehensive national search, Samuel Carl Laganà has been named the next President of Notre Dame High School. His term as president will begin in the 2021-2022 school year.

    Last summer, the Notre Dame Board of Directors engaged Carney Sandoe & Associates, the leading executive search firm for Catholic schools, to assist in the search process for a new president. The Board assembled a committee chaired by James Wagenbach ’83 that ensured various stakeholder groups were able to participate in the process. “The committee did an outstanding job in evaluating an extensive list of candidates in order to select the best person to lead Notre Dame into the future,” said Mr. Wagenbach.

    Sam currently serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor at Pepperdine University. He has been with Pepperdine since 2002 and has a long and distinguished history of excellence in educational leadership. Sam holds degrees from Loyola Marymount University (B.A.) and Pepperdine University (M.B.A.). Sam is a servant leader. His strengths include fostering strong community and civic relations as well as coordinating advancement activities as part of a team that raised $440 million in a university-wide campaign. Having served on numerous boards for many worthwhile causes throughout the city, he brings with him a deep, lifelong commitment to Los Angeles, an eagerness to engage with our Notre Dame community, and a desire to bolster students’ voices and sense of belonging.

    Board chair Justin Rawlins ’91 joins the Board of Directors and the entire Notre Dame community in welcoming Sam, adding, “We are blessed to enter this new decade under Sam’s leadership as we move forward with a renewed spirit and commitment to our mission. We are delighted that Sam brings with him such a deep connection to higher education, his faith, and our diverse Los Angeles community, all of which are at the heart of Notre Dame.”

    Sam is looking forward to joining the Notre Dame community, sharing this message:

    “It is truly an honor to be selected as the president and chief executive of Notre Dame High School. I look forward to fully embracing, promoting, and expanding the mission of student success and the commitment to educating the mind and heart. The values of NDHS, offering students the finest academics with co-curricular avenues to a collegiate experience while emphasizing core relational and faith-based principles, is something the faculty, staff, and the Congregation of Holy Cross have established as foundational strengths since 1947. I look forward to getting to the campus in July to join with the faculty, staff, and stakeholders to build on the efforts to advance the finest cross-cultural, diverse, coeducational Catholic high school in greater Los Angeles. My gratitude goes out to Board Chair Justin Rawlins and the entire Board of Directors, as well as the search committee led by Chair Jamie Wagenbach, for this extraordinary opportunity. May our Lady of Victory pray for us!”

    Sam joins Notre Dame at an exciting time. NDHS is recognized as one of the leading Catholic high schools in Southern California. The City of Los Angeles has recently approved a master plan that includes approximately 50,000 square feet of new space and multiple improvements to the iconic mission-style campus.

    Sam and his wife Eileen reside in Pacific Palisades and are active members of Corpus Christi parish. They have two daughters who were both educated in Catholic schools.

    Please join the entire community in welcoming Sam and offering prayers for him in his new role as President of Notre Dame High School.
  • NDHS President Search Update (January 8, 2021)

    January 8, 2021

    Dear Notre Dame Community,

    The President Search Committee has spent the past several months reviewing applications and interviewing candidates for the next President of Notre Dame High School. We are pleased to announce that we have selected three finalists for the position. The final interviews begin next week. Each candidate will be meeting with various constituents, including faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and the Board of Directors, while visiting the campus in person. The Board of Directors anticipates hiring the new President in late January or early February.


    James A. Wagenbach
    Chair, President Search Committee
    Notre Dame High School Class of 1983
  • NDHS President Position Description (September 8, 2020)

  • NDHS President Search is Underway (August 20, 2020)

    August 19, 2020

    Dear Notre Dame Community,

    I am writing in my capacity as Chair of the Search Committee to find the next President of Notre Dame High School. As we begin the search for the next President, the Board of Directors and the Search Committee look to you, the Notre Dame community, to help guide our search. We seek your input to ensure that the diverse values of the Notre Dame family are inclusive, articulated and prioritized.

    In June the Board of Directors voted unanimously to partner with Carney, Sandoe & Associates (CS&A) to assist Notre Dame with the search. CS&A is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in recruitment and strategic consulting services for educational institutions. We are fortunate to be working closely with Bob Regan, founder and head of the firm’s Catholic Schools Practice and Dr. Karen Neitzel who has a long history of working with Los Angeles area schools. Bob and Karen have spent the last week meeting with various constituencies of Notre Dame to begin the process.

    We have emailed all of our current and past parents, alumni, faculty, students, friends and donors a link to a Community Survey, which we are asking you to complete and submit no later than August 28th. We seek to learn your thoughts and feelings regarding the qualities you believe to be most desired in our next President. Further, we welcome any nominations you might have for a potential candidate. The information gleaned from the survey will be shared with the Search Committee to assist in our judgment and priorities. 

    The task before the Notre Dame community is a great one. The success of our next President begins with you, the Notre Dame family. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Search Committee, I thank you in advance for your support as we enter the next era of educating hearts and minds.


    James A. Wagenbach
    Chair, President Search Committee
    Notre Dame High School Class of 1983
  • NDHS Announces Interim Presidential Committee (August 6, 2020)

    August 6, 2020

    The Notre Dame High School Board of Directors is pleased to announce an interim presidential committee to act in lieu of the president during the 2020-21 school year. The carefully assembled committee, composed of Alice Brancale Cotti, Rick Ysasi and Richard Klee will serve as a three-person decision-making body, effective immediately. The trio will share in the responsibilities of providing spiritual leadership, personnel and institutional management, and creating and maintaining a vibrant Catholic culture as they prepare a new hybrid model of instruction to accommodate the current Covid-19 restrictions.

    Justin Rawlins, current Chair of the Notre Dame Board of Directors, stated, "The board is thrilled to be able to continue to work with Alice, Rick, and Rich at the helm over the 2020-21 school year. With their direction over the past few months, the school has already increased financial aid to our students and families to a record high, while maintaining a robust enrollment with the largest entering freshman class in the school’s history. We believe a collaborative approach with our existing leadership will best position the school while we search for a new president. We are universally impressed with Alice, Rick, and Rich’s excellence and integrity. With them, we are well positioned to have a successful year that will build upon principles of continued academic excellence, positive school culture, and advancing the school’s mission of educating hearts and minds, best positioning our students for success."

    Entering her 30th year in secondary education and her 5th year as Notre Dame’s principal, Alice Brancale Cotti has worked in several Catholic and K-12 independent schools throughout Southern California. She brings experience in all areas of school life including teaching, student support, counseling, college advising, and administration. Alice and her husband, Joe, are both products of local Catholic elementary and high schools. They have two sons, both of whom attended Catholic elementary school and the younger, Brendan, is an NDHS alumnus from the recent graduating class of 2020.

    Rick Ysasi has proudly served NDHS for eight years. The Michigan native is the Vice President of Finance and oversees all of the financial and human resource operations at NDHS. Ysasi was a Catholic school student his entire life which helped to fuel his passion for the institution. Most notably, Ysasi attended renowned Catholic universities across the country. He obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame and went on to complete graduate work in Catholic School Administration at Loyola Marymount University. Ysasi is a loving husband, dedicated father to three children, and devoted to NDHS.

    As the Director of Advancement at Notre Dame High School, Richard Klee oversees community engagement and fundraising. He has been in Catholic education for over 30 years, including 26 years at Notre Dame, where his previous positions have included teaching, campus ministry, technology, admissions, and vice-principal. Richard and his wife Analee are the parents of two NDHS graduates and a current junior.

    This committee will consistently report to a diverse five-person ND Executive Committee of the Board of Directors on a weekly basis. They will also be working simultaneously with the ND President Search Committee led by James A. Wagenbach, class of ‘83 and Committee Chairman, to find a replacement for the permanent presidential position. Using the services of executive search firm Carney, Sandoe & Associates, they will conduct a nationwide search for a candidate who possesses strong leadership abilities and can continue to facilitate the Board’s long-term plans and overall goals; our President will be vital in the implementation and representation of our Mission, Philosophy and shared Values.

    Cotti shared the following sentiments, "I appreciate the commitment of the Board and its Executive Committee, and all those who will provide support during this transition in leadership. I have tremendous respect for my administrative team, department chairs, faculty and staff, and I am confident that, working together, we will continue to provide an excellent education for our students in hearts and minds."
  • President Brett Lowart's Retirement Announcement (June 2, 2020)

    June 2, 2020 

    Dear Notre Dame High School Family and Friends, 

    After serving Notre Dame High School since 2009, Brett Lowart has announced that he will be retiring as president of the school effective June 30, 2020. 

    Here is Brett's message to the Notre Dame community. 

    "I will fondly remember with great pride and gratitude the work and progress we have accomplished together over the past eleven years. I will always treasure the many friendships, memories, and Holy Cross spirit we have shared along the way. I have been privileged to interact with so many dedicated faculty and staff, as well as students, parents, and alumni. It has been an honor to represent and promote our school, and it has been my joy to be a part of the Notre Dame family. It is my hope that a new leader will be selected as my successor to become the third President in school history who will continue our zeal for the Holy Cross mission, who will embrace the school family, and who will have the skill, vision, and experience to successfully oversee the next chapter of Notre Dame’s growth. You have my prayers and best wishes as you continue the invaluable Notre Dame mission of educating hearts and minds. Go Knights!" 

    We wish Brett great success in the next stage of his career and join him in his expressions of pride for Notre Dame. We are grateful for his service as we have accomplished so much together. Brett’s active and dedicated service as well as his leadership and collaboration have played a significant role in Notre Dame’s spiritual, academic, and athletic growth. During his tenure, Brett oversaw the construction of the Rawlinson Aquatics Center, Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, and Donahue Fitness Center, the renovation of the Fritz B. Burns Gymnasium, and various other campus improvements, including a new parking structure currently under construction. The school has reached new heights in academic success, college admissions, curriculum growth, extracurricular opportunities, and innovation in educational technology. Most importantly, Brett has emphasized the spiritual life and Holy Cross mission of Notre Dame by working to educate the hearts and minds of our students. With all of this, you could indeed say that Brett has won over our hearts and minds during his years of service to Notre Dame. 

    The Board of Directors is extremely proud of Notre Dame’s faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni. With the foundation that they and Brett have provided, Notre Dame is well-positioned for continued success. We are looking forward to our next chapter as we take Notre Dame toward a very bright future. 

    Justin Rawlins ‘91 
    Notre Dame High School 
    Chairman of the Board of Directors 

President Search Committee

James A. Wagenbach – Chair, President Search Committee
President, Navitas Group, LLC
Current Member of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Alumnus, Class of 1983

Alvan Arzu
Deputy City Attorney, Los Angeles
Alumnus, Class of 1996

Brother Donald Blauvelt, CSC
Assistant Provincial of Moreau Province
Director, Schools Sponsorship Office
Congregation of Holy Cross

Dave Damus
CEO, System Property Development Company
Current Member of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Alumnus, Class of 1983

Steven Dunn
Chairman/CEO, Munchkin, Inc.
Notre Dame High School Philanthropist

Lenny McNeill
Regional Sales Executive, U.S. Bank Home Mortgage
Current Member of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Parent ‘09, ‘12

Kathy Nikolai
Owner/CEO, Rotating Precision Mechanisms
Current Member of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Parent ‘15

Ron Renaud
Owner, Payday Entertainment Payroll Co.
Former Chair of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Alumnus, Class of 1964
Parent ‘89, ‘94, ‘95, ‘97, ‘01
Grandparent ‘15, ‘17

Ed Romano
Current Member of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Grandparent ‘15

Jennifer Serrano
Department Chair, Modern & Classical Languages Department at Notre Dame High School
Parent ‘17

Eileen Wong
Finance Executive, Twentieth Century Fox TV
Current Member of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors
Parent ‘15

Note: Justin Rawlins is the current Chair of the Notre Dame High School Board of Directors. Although he is not a standing member of the search committee, he will be communicating with the committee on occasion.
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