• John Gratto

March 17, 2022: A visit to the Maritime High School in Zadar

When I spoke at the Scientific Seminar at the University of Zadar last week, I met Marin Perinic, the principal of the Maritime High School in Zadar. Yes, since it is situated on the Adriatic Sea, Zadar has a high school entirely devoted to maritime or nautical studies. Marin invited me to visit his school this morning.

The school is quite interesting in many regards. First, is its construction. Marin told me that the building was built in 1848 by the Austrian-Hungarian empire. At one point it housed Roman soldiers and their horses. For impressive than that is that one of the walls of the school is part of the original Venetian wall constructed in 1543 by the Venetian architect Michelle Sanmichell. As you will see from the pictures below, its architecture is quite impressive.

Another very interesting aspect of this school is the governance. Marin told me that he was elected for a 5-year appointment this year, following the passing of his predecessor. To become a principal in Croatia, one must have at least 7 years of experience as a teacher and submit his or her qualifications to be considered by the governing board. The board will then put the top 2 qualified candidates up for a vote by the teachers.

There is one 1 parent on his Board and 3 members from his school. Two of them are teachers and one is from the entire workers assembly (composed of all members from his school). So, it is interesting that he is the supervisor of the 2 teachers and the one support staff member but, at the same time, three of them are also his supervisor since they are on his governing board. Three additional board members come from Zadar county.

He said that he can hold his former position as a guidance counselor for 10 years. After 10 years, if he is elected for another 5-year term, he has to make a decision. Go back to being a guidance counselor or continue as a principal. The risk in continuing to be a principal, after the 10-year mark, is that he might not get re-elected. If that was the case, then he would be unemployed since positions are school-specific rather than being part of a countywide system.

Next are the students themselves. There are 366 students, 6 girls and 300 boys. All of them aspire to be in the maritime industry. There is a 100% placement rate for the graduates. As we visited about a half dozen classrooms, I was quite surprised and impressed that the students stood up whenever Marin, the principal, entered a class. That showed a level of respect that is not apparent in American classrooms. Some of the students asked which my most favorite NBA team was. I favor the Celtics. Most of them favor the Lakers.

I encourage you to watch a professionally done 6-minute video about the school which does a comprehensive job of explaining all of its features.

This is a 2000-year-old Roman anchor and a picture of a seafaring scene in the lobby of the Maritime High School in Zadar

The teachers and the classes are also quite interesting. There is a heavy emphasis on English since that is the most commonly used language for maritime operations on ships. I was also impressed with the focus on math in some classrooms. Many of the teachers are former mariners with extensive experience. They took a big pay cut to become teachers but say that money isn’t everything and they enjoy the opportunity to teach future mariners. Some of them even went to this same school. I met about a half dozen teachers and they all seemed delighted to be there.

Many of the classrooms are filled with simulators and monitors. Others were filled with whiteboards with complicated math problems on them. Another interesting aspect of the school was their break time. The entire school takes a break at the same time. Students went out to a nearby bakery or into the parking area for a smoke while the cleaning lady at the school had prepared a large tray filled with coffee cups for the faculty.

It is hard to tell it from this picture taken in the library, but this wall is about 6’ feet thick because it was part of the original Venetian wall constructed in 1543.

Check out the 2000-year-old walls in this meeting room at the Maritime High School

This is a beautiful recreation room at the Maritime High School

This is Marin, the principal at Zadar’s Maritime High School. He spent two hours giving me a tour of his school and very graciously gave me a National Geographic book filled with aerial pictures of Croatia as well as a nice polo shirt from the Maritime High School