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Alum takes helm at Bell-Jeff

Says his top priority will be raising the visibility of the Catholic high school.

June 24, 2011|By Megan O'Neil

Incoming Bellarmine-Jefferson High School Principal John Matheus has a long to-do list ready for when he takes over on July 1 — increase enrollment, foster a faith-based environment and champion the school’s athletic teams.

But one priority surpasses the rest.

“Visibility will be at the forefront of what we do here,” Matheus, 57, said.

He plans to have a marketing director in place by July 20, the first step in raising the profile of the school in Burbank and surrounding communities, he said. Additional efforts will include advertising, reconnecting with alums and building strong relationships with feeder schools.

“We feel that we have a program here that could be expanded,” Matheus said. “The biggest opportunity here is marketing and advertising what a Catholic high school in the Burbank-Glendale area is about.”


Matheus returns to his alma mater — he graduated from Bell-Jeff in 1972 — at a critical juncture. Founded in 1944, the school has struggled in recent years to fill its classrooms. Last month, Bell-Jeff graduated 60 seniors. The incoming freshman class is even smaller.

But the new principal said that the challenge is exactly what he was seeking after 31 years at La Salle High School in Pasadena.

“I was looking for an opportunity to lead…and at this point in my career, I wanted to get the right fit,” Matheus said. “I believe coming back to my alma mater is not just very good for me, but for the school here too.”

Raised in Burbank, Matheus attended St. Finbar School before enrolling at Bell-Jeff, where he was a three-sport athlete. He went on to earn a degree in political science at Cal State Northridge, and then teaching and administrative credentials at Cal State Los Angeles, before accepting a position at La Salle in 1979.

There, he taught and coached, eventually moving into administrative positions, including athletic director and assistant principal.

In 1991, he and his colleagues transitioned the school from all-boys to coed. They also inaugurated La Salle’s football program. Both moves served to bolster the school, Matheus said, which now has a highly competitive entrance process and a healthy enrollment of about 700.

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