Seven schools welcome new leaders

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Seven Catholic schools in the Diocese of Jackson will start the year with new principals. Some are familiar faces, others are new to their communities. At Madison St. Joseph, Dena Kinsey moves into the role of principal after serving in the administration there for several years.
Prior to that, Kinsey taught at both St. Richard and St. Joseph. “Teaching chose me. It’s a calling that I’ve always had. I tried to ignore it, but I kept being called back. I’ve had brief stents in the public schools, but Catholic schools are where I find my family, my center,” she said.
Part of her plan for the school is to get the word out about the quality of education available through Catholic schools in Jackson. “I’m definitely a believer in servant leadership. I’m a worker, so I hope to be in the midst of everyone going about the business of helping young people grow to be better than they were. Mother McCauley (of the Sisters of Mercy) said, ‘fitting them for the world without unfitting them for heaven.’ I love that. I have full faith in the teachers at St. Joe,” Kinsey added.
Jackson St. Richard welcomed Jennifer David as principal on July 1. David was previously the principal at Meridian St. Patrick School. She also worked at Columbus Annunciation for several years. She said she is excited to work in a community where she has access to so many other Catholic schools and is looking forward to collaborating with all the other communities in the Jackson area. Her daughter will attend Madison St. Joseph High School.
Meridian St. Patrick’s new principal, Montse Kaun Frias, a native of Spain, comes to Mississippi from Mexico, where she was the principal of a school run by the Legionaries of Christ. She has also been a teacher and school counselor. “I’m glad to be in a Catholic environment because from my educational experience, teaching and promoting virtues and values is what makes a real impact in a student’s life and is what makes a teacher or school unforgettable,” Frias said. Her previous position in Mississippi was with Lamar County schools.
“I have always considered working in a school as an opportunity to contribute to making a better world. A good education provides society with constructive leaders who will live justice and love,” said Frias.
Sally Olivi has lived in Clarksdale her whole life, is an active member of St. Elizabeth parish and has been in education for decades, so when the principal at St. Elizabeth School retired she saw a great opportunity to step into the spot. “I am honored and lucky to be here,” said Olivi.
Olivi worked at a local public vocational school where she taught and then served as director for six years. She also taught at Lee Academy until it closed its elementary school at a time that coincided with the retirement of St. Elizabeth’s previous principal, Jeannie Roberts.
“Things are already set up in a good, organized way,” Olivi said of the school. “I like to have good communication and keep the children first in what we do,” she added. She is grateful to be able to now take her faith into the classrooms. “The great thing about Catholic school is that it is Christ-centered and that’s one thing I love about this school.”
When she worked at public and private schools she noted “students who graduated from St. Elizabeth were better prepared, better behaved and had better morals. That stood out to me,” said Olivi. She said the Catholic school graduates tended to get honors in their high schools. She intends to continue the strong tradition of excellence St. Elizabeth holds in the community.
“I’m really excited about this new chapter at St Elizabeth School, building off the success of recent years,” said Father Scott Thomas, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish and canonical administrator for the school. “Mrs. Olivi brings a great love for education as well as the Catholic Church. I’m thankful to God for sending us yet another faith-filled educator for the future of Clarksdale,” he added.
Greenville St. Joseph Catholic Unit School has new leadership for both Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary and St. Joseph High schools. St. Joseph unified onto one campus last year and the new leadership hopes to continue to emphasize the theme of ‘one school.’
Steve Weis is the overall administrator and high school principal. A product of Catholic schools in Missouri, Wies comes to St. Joseph from Cleveland High School. Since 2010, Wies served as Cleveland’s athletic director and math teacher, as well as baseball and soccer coach.
Dr. Jo Anne Heisterkamp will serve as principal of Our Lady of Lourdes. Although new to the role, she has a history with the school. “Both of my children graduated from here and I was a special education teacher and academic director in the high school,” said Heisterkamp. She left to teach at Mississippi Valley State University where she was tapped to be director of student teaching.
Heisterkamp retired from that position to care for her husband, who died last year. He was an engineer who helped build the Uncle Ben’s plant in town.
“This was not on my radar. This was a call from God,” she said of the job. After Paul Artman and Michelle Gardiner announced their plans to retire from St. Joseph, a couple of friends asked Heiserkamp if she planned to apply, so she got an application and started thinking about it. “Three times God just came to me and said, ‘apply.’”
Heisterkamp said she and Weis make a great team. “We are working through it together. We truly do have the same vision. This is just awesome,” she said. She already had a good impression of the faculty at St. Joseph. “These teachers are so great here. When I had a student teacher here, her mentor teacher was just so good.”
Teamwork is already part of the culture in Greenville. “They (teachers) work together – it’s just phenomenal, the mindset of this school,” said Heisterkamp. She and Weis hope to provide a place for students to thrive. “We like a lot of structure. They (the students) need structure, even in high school,” she explained.
Norm Yvon is already putting his personal touch on his administration as principal at Cathedral High School and chief administrator of the unit school. “He wrote individual notes to each senior and left them in their lockers,” said Cara Serio, development director at Cathedral. Yvon also wrote a prayer for the school community, which he hand-delivered to teachers in their classrooms earlier this summer.
Yvon came up with the theme for the year – Positively Catholic – during the Pacific Institute’s seminar for principals in July. The workshop was offered by the Office of Catholic Education to help unify administrators from across the diocese. (See page 1 for related story.)
“We held a prayer service to kick off the year – it was absolutely beautiful,” said Serio. The staff also attended a retreat led by Joanne Waycaster with the theme “Feeding the lambs: care and tending of future shepherds.”
Serio added that Yvon is serious about his responsibilities. She said he is detail oriented and is taking time to learn the ins and outs of school operations.

Elementary schools

Annunciation – Columbus (PreK-8)
Mrs. Joni House, Principal
223 North Browder St. 39702-5236
Tel: 662-328-4479

Holy Family – Holly Springs (PreK-8)
Ms. Clara Isom , Principal
395 N. West St. 38635-1922
Tel: 662-252-1612

Sacred Heart – Southaven (PreK-8)
Mrs. Bridget Martin, Principal
5150 Tchulahoma Rd. 38671
Tel: 662-349-0900

St. Francis – Greenwood (PreK-6)
Mrs. Jackie Lewis, Principal
2607 Highway 82 E 38930-5966
Tel: 662-453-9511

St. Elizabeth – Clarksdale (PreK-6)
Mrs. Sally Olivi, Principal
150 Florence Ave. 38614-2720
Tel: 662-624-4239

St. Patrick – Meridian (PreK-8)
Montse Kaun Frias, Principal
2700 Davis St. 39301
Tel: 601-482-6044

Unit schools

Cathedral – Natchez (PreK-12)
Mr. Norm Yvon, Chief Administrator;
High School Principal
701 Martin Luther King Jr. St. 39120-2962
Tel.: 601-442-1988Mrs. Shannon Bland, Assist Admin;
Elem. Principal
701 Martin Luther King Jr. St. 39120-2962
Tel.: 601-442-1988

St. Joseph Catholic Unit School (PreK-12)
St. Joseph High School (7-12)
Mr. Steven Wies, Chief Admin;
High School Principal
1501 VFW Rd. 38701-5841
Tel.: 662-378-9711
High School Website

Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary (PreK-6)
Dr. Jo Anne Heisterkamp, Assist. Admin;
Elementary School Principal
1501 VFW Rd. 38701-5841
Elem. School Website
Elementary School Secretary: Keri Moss
Tel: 662-334-3287

Vicksburg Catholic Unit School (PreK-12)
St. Aloysius High School (7-12)
Dr. Buddy Strickland, Chief Admin;
High School Principal
1900 Grove St. 39183
Tel.: 601-636-2256 / Fax: 601-631-0430

St. Francis Xavier Elementary (PreK-6)
Mrs. Mary Arledge, Asst. Admin;
Elementary Principal
1200 Hayes St. 39183
Tel.: 601-636-4824
Elementary School Secretary: Linda McMinn

St. Joseph – Madison (7-12)
Mrs. Dena Kinsey, Principal
308 New Mannsdale Rd. 39110
Tel.: 601-898-4800
Web Page
Secretary: Melinda Weisenberger

St. Anthony – Madison (PreK-6)
Mr. Jim Bell, Principal
1585 Old Mannsdale Rd. 39110
Tel: 601-607-7054 / Fax: 601- 853-9687

St. Richard – Jackson (PreK-6)
Mrs. Jennifer David, Principal
100 Holly Dr. 39206
Tel: 601-366-1157 / Fax: 601-366-4344
Secretary: Tammy Conrad

Sister Thea Bowman – Jackson (PreK-6)
Mrs. Shae Robinson, Principal
1217 Hattiesburg St. 39209-7411
Tel: 601-352-5441