By Joe Lee
JACKSON – Succeeding a legend like Shae Goodman-Robinson would be a daunting task to some, but for Christopher Payne, the incoming principal of Sister Thea Bowman School, it’s a comfortable fit as well as an opportunity to continue paying forward the many life lessons he learned from his mentor.
A graduate of Mississippi State University, Payne has spent the last seven years teaching social studies and technology to Sister Thea Bowman students in grades 3-6. A native of Jackson, he graduated from Jim Hill High school and knows the city and its challenges well.
“In my first year, I noticed a student whose behavior was changing. He was more aggressive around others and a bit standoffish,” Payne said. “I’ve seen boys do that and felt I needed to have a heart-to-heart with him. He started talking about what was going on at home, his relationship with his parents, and he broke down and cried.”
“I started sharing some of my experiences from the past, and he hugged me and said he hadn’t had anyone to talk to. That was the moment I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the impact I can have on these students’ lives.’”
In the short term, Payne says that while Sister Thea Bowman School already has a safe, loving, Christ-like environment, he wants to bring it “times ten” and immediately increase enrollment.
“I want to help guide the school to be one of the premier Catholic schools in Jackson,” Payne said. “Sister Thea Bowman is up for canonization, and we look forward to our school being known as ‘Saint’ Thea Bowman Catholic School. Having at present a prominent African American student body, I’d like to see kids of all races at our school. That’s what Sister Thea wanted: harmony among all groups.”
(Sister Thea Bowman School is now enrolling grades PreK-3 through sixth grade. Interested persons may contact the school at (601) 352-5441. Financial contributions to Sister Thea Bowman School as well as donations of your time and talents are greatly appreciated. Visit theabowmanschool.com to learn more.)