Greetings everyone! Happy New Year!
Welcome back to school and to the 2022-2023 school year. This summer has undoubtedly been the hottest one in my recollection. Still, the Office of Catholic Education and your school principals have been working diligently to ensure that students have the best start to this new school year.
We want to welcome four new administrators to the diocese this year. They bring a wealth of experience and a heart for service to their local schools. Robin Branton will serve as high school principal for Cathedral School in Natchez. Robert Calcote will serve as principal at St. Patrick School in Meridian. Christopher Payne will serve as principal of Sister Thea Bowman School in Jackson. Finally, Jon Graham will serve as assistant principal for St. Aloysius in Vicksburg. We are excited to have them with us for this new school year! Returning to Catholic education to support the new leaders at their schools are Pat Sanguinetti for Cathedral School in Natchez and Dr. Virgil Strickland for St. Aloysius Vicksburg. We sincerely thank them for their dedicated service to Catholic education and are excited they are with us, even if they are only with us temporarily.
Our committees have been busy reviewing test scores, evaluating programs and making plans to address the responses received in our surveys at the end of last year. We will soon share our findings in the Office of Catholic Education annual report and the plans for this school year.
Our 2022-2023 theme comes from Psalm 100:2; Serve the Lord with Gladness. “Serve Others” is one-third of the pastoral priorities for the Diocese of Jackson. This year, we have chosen to acknowledge the National Eucharistic Revival and the Catechetical theme “This is my Body given for you,” through the loving act of service to each other and our communities. From the young children at the early learning centers to the high school seniors, our students, faculties, staff and administrators will be looking this year for opportunities to serve each other and their communities meaningfully.
Finally, we welcome you to the mission of Catholic education. As baptized Catholic Christians, we graciously accepted the responsibility to evangelize during the sacrament of Confirmation. You can support this mission by praying, volunteering in your parish schools and supporting school fundraisers. Our Catholic schools are not only an investment in society’s future but the future of our church as well.
Karla Luke, Executive Director of Catholic Schools
Four new principals for our Catholic schools
Robin Branton – Cathedral School, Natchez
Robin Branton is a native of Baton Rouge who attended Louisiana State University where she received her Bachelor’s of Science degree with a concentration in secondary english education. She obtained her Master’s of Education degree in educational leadership from Louisiana State University in Shreveport. She has eighteen years of educational experience, eleven of which have been spent in the Catholic school system including teaching English at St. Joseph’s Academy for six years before relocating to the Natchez area. She joined Cathedral School as an English teacher in 2017 before serving as the Middle School/High School Assistant Principal from 2020-2022.
Branton is married to John and they have five children – Tate (MSU c/o 2022), Searcy (Cathedral c/o 2024), Quin (Cathedral c/o 2029), Harrison (Cathedral c/o 2031) and Suzannah (Cathedral c/o 2033). Together they enjoy traveling, sports and family time. They are active members of St. Mary Basilica.
Catholic education and tradition is important to Branton, which is what brought her to Cathedral. It reminds her of her childhood schools and the educational background she received throughout her life. She hopes to continue to build on this wonderful, Catholic foundation, education and tradition that Cathedral carries with the trust and support of the school community.
Robert Calcote – St. Patrick School, Meridian
Rob Calcote is a native of Meridian. He received his Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of Mississippi and an undergraduate and masters degree in education from Mississippi State University.
Calcote has been married to his wife Melissa for 30 years. They have one daughter, Claire Calcote, that is a registered pharmacist practicing in a second year residency program at CHI St. Joseph in Lexington, Kentucky.
Recently retired with 30 years of public education experience as a teacher and administrator with a background in four different grade levels, Calcote is ready for the task of leading St. Patrick School.
Calcote says, he has always had the desire to lead a school that has a spiritual foundation with a tradition of academic excellence.
“My hope for St. Patrick Catholic School Meridian is that it will be a safe nurturing place where the dignity of each individual child is valued and the love of Christ is evident in everything we do,” says Calcote.
Jon C. Graham – St. Aloysius High School, Vicksburg
Jon Graham comes to St. Aloysius High School with a passion for preparing the minds, hearts and souls of young disciples for their academic success, future life endeavors, and meaningful opportunities to grow deeper in their faith in a Christ-centered environment enriched with Catholic values and traditions.
Graham has an extensive educational background with experiences in general education, special education, STEAM, curriculum development and management, and academic leadership and administration. He was honored in 2016, 2018 and 2020 as an educator of the month, and most recently was recognized as Vicksburg Daily News’ 2022 Swimming Coach of the Year.
Graham received a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, a M.A. in education and teaching from Belhaven University, and an Ed.S. in educational leadership and administration from Delta State University. He is currently pursuing a Ed.D. in educational instruction and curriculum at Delta State University.
Graham, a Marine Corps veteran, is an active member of St. Paul of Vicksburg where he attends Mass with his supportive wife of 23 years, Christina and their three children – Noah (22), Jonah (14) and Emma Kate (12). As a family, they enjoy attending various sporting events and taking road trips to explore historical sites and trying out new foods.
Jon expressed, “I appreciate the rich traditions and esteemed reputation of St. Aloysius and I have great expectations for our future as we move forward into taking the school from good to great! My vision is to work collaboratively with all teachers, parents and stakeholders to strengthen our Catholic faith and the rigorous academics St. Aloysius already possesses as well as developing new opportunities to enrich our school, parish, community and, most importantly, our phenomenal students.”
Christopher Payne – Sister Thea Bowman School, Jackson
Christopher Payne was born and raised in Jackson. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. After graduation, Payne began his career as a teacher at Sister Thea Bowman School.
Payne says he is committed to being a positive role model for my students. “Because of the promise I made to God, my family, my principal, Mrs. Shae Robinson and mostly to my students, I stayed ready in my position as their teacher to now transitioning as principal. It is indeed surreal, yet aligned by God.”
Payne’s vision for Sister Thea Bowman School is one with substantial growth in enrollment and community relations with the city of Jackson. “Within my first year, I hope to continue the quality academic education that has been established here and bring new ideas and customs that will increase the perspective of my school within our community,” said Payne.