Longtime educator returns to lead Cristo Rey High School

John O’Connor

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — A familiar name to many families in the Kansas City area, John O’Connor has taught, coached and served as principal at St. Thomas More School, Archbishop O’Hara and St. Mary’s high schools. He spent the last year as principal of the Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, Calif. O’Connor always intended to return home, and he has, to serve as third president of Cristo Rey-Kansas City High School.

He recalled being informed of the opportunity at Cristo Rey in late Nov. 2016, and said it felt right, right to come back to familiar people, places, to come home.

It was great in Sacramento: his daughters liked their schools, he enjoyed working at Christian Brothers High School, and they all enjoyed the weather. “I learned so much from the school’s president,” O’Connor said, “he was wonderful to work for and with. I might have stayed longer, but the mission of Cristo Rey spoke to me.”

O’Connor summed it up: “I love the mission, work with the poor and, through education and work, give them a leg up toward a great future.”

Throughout his career in education, he witnessed “the powerful transformation in young people when a community unites to affect change.” Over the past 24 years – as a teacher, coach, principal, and, now president – O’Connor came believe to that “this is the secret ingredient in high performing schools. I knew that Cristo Rey Kansas City had this, and I was inspired to join this mission.”

The O’Connors packed up and moved back to the Kansas City area, buying a home in Lee’s Summit. Their older daughter is a sophomore at St. Michael the Archangel High School and the younger daughter attends Our Lady of the Presentation School.

“It’s good to be back in a city I know and understand,” O’Connor said.

Cristo Rey has a student population of 386 and the corporate work study program currently has 386 jobs for them, both paid and unpaid. O’Connor plans to work with Ted Koppen, the Corporate Work Study Director, to “get the word out about our new STEM initiative, offering Intro to Engineering, Human Body Systems and Computer Science classes.”

He wants to use connections to bring in more job sponsors, to further improve the campus and to increase enrollment. O’Connor also plans to promote the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who sponsor Cristo Rey-Kansas City. He is working closely with Amy Livengood, the school’s new finance director, to keep Cristo Rey fiscally responsible. And he’s building a good relationship with the Board of Trustees.

“I’m reconnecting with Kansas City,” he said with a smile. “I feel a lot of support from family, friends, the SCLs and the community. This is where I’m meant to be. Cristo Rey and Kansas City are great places!”







  1. August 30, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

    Amazing to focus on John now in light of the way he was treated by the diocese over the St. Michael’s job.

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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph