The following are brief profiles of the 14 new presidents and principals of Catholic high schools and elementary schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Alice Bairnsfather, principal, Ursuline Academy (high school), New Orleans, has devoted the last 25 years to high school education. For the last 3 1/2 years, she has served as the academic assistant principal at Ursuline Academy. She previously worked as the assistant principal of Dominican High School and taught math and technology classes at Archbishop Shaw High School, the Anchorage School District in Alaska, and Terrebonne Parish public schools.
She earned a master’s in curriculum and instruction, a bachelor of science degree in mathematics education, and an associate of science degree in computer programming from Nicholls State University. She is a member of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Catholic Educational Association.
“I am excited and humbled to accept the position of high school principal of Ursuline Academy of New Orleans, the oldest girls’ school in America,” Bairnsfather said. “I would like to thank the Ursuline sisters and the Ursuline community for putting their trust in me to continue the mission begun 286 years ago.”
John Charles, principal, St. Augustine High School, New Orleans, is a 1971 graduate of St. Augustine. He assumed his new position in March. Charles served most recently for seven years at Archbishop Rummel High School teaching physics, chemistry and math. Charles spent 18 years at St. Augustine teaching math and physics and coaching basketball. He later served as assistant principal of St. Augustine from 2000-05.
Charles earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree in engineering from the University of New Orleans. He has begun a doctorate in educational leadership.
“I felt like it was a calling for me to come back,” Charles said. “I feel like I’m coming home. I am looking forward to serving in this new position at my alma mater.”
George Hebert, principal, Archbishop Shaw High School, Marrero, is a native of the West Bank and a 1985 graduate of Archbishop Shaw.
“We are very happy to have an alumnus with close ties to the community join us as principal,” said Salesian Father Louis Molinelli, director/president of Archbishop Shaw. “Mr. Hebert’s gifts and experience will be particular blessings to Shaw as we continue to undergo our strategic plan.”
Hebert has worked in the Jefferson Parish Public School System for 22 years. For the past 11 years, Hebert served as the principal of Fisher Middle and High School in Lafitte. He was selected in 2009-10 as State High School Principal of the Year. During his tenure, Fisher was recognized for exemplary academic growth, increasing its school performance score (SPS) for the last five years and exceeding its growth target the last two years. Fisher was recognized as a “top gains” school for the 2011-12 school year and was nationally ranked on the U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 Best High School list, one of four schools in Jefferson Parish to receive this recognition.
Hebert earned a bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1989, certification from Our Lady of Holy Cross College in 1993 and a master’s degree in education from Our Lady of Holy Cross in 1996. Hebert has two sons who have both graduated from Shaw.
“I am looking forward to using my training and experience to make significant contributions to my alma mater, Archbishop Shaw,” Hebert said. “My vision for Shaw is to develop and foster a culture of learning and high expectations, stressing faith and values and to continue to follow the educational philosophy of the Salesians of Don Bosco which is reason, religion and kindness. I want to make Shaw the first choice for the young men of the West Bank to receive an excellent Catholic education.”
Peter S. Kernion, principal, Jesuit High School, New Orleans, served for the previous 12 years as assistant principal for student affairs. He has served Jesuit as a teacher, coach, administrator and Blue Jay alumnus. Kernion succeeded former principal Michael Giambelluca, who moved to Omaha, Neb., to assume the presidency of Creighton Preparatory School.
“I am very grateful that Peter has accepted the challenges and responsibilities that are inherent with being principal,” said Jesuit Father Raymond Fitzgerald, Jesuit president. “I look forward to working with him in promoting the mission of our school to form men of competence, conscience and compassion who are well disposed and well prepared to work for God’s greater glory and the good of others.”
Kernion said he is honored to have been selected for what he considers a formidable task. “I understand the importance of collaborating with others and listening to the ideas of other community members,” said Kernion, a 1990 Jesuit graduate. “However, I am also aware that a principal must be able to make decisions – often tough decisions – that may not be popular or well-received by everyone. I pray that I will do what is right and best for the school even when those decisions are difficult. Ultimately, the position of principal is not about the individual. It is about the Jesuit High School community – especially our students.”
Kernion is Jesuit’s 15th principal – and only the fourth layperson to hold the job – since 1926, the year the school relocated from Baronne Street to Carrollton and Banks. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Kernion relocated to Houston and assumed a key role in helping to establish a satellite night school at Strake Jesuit for 400 displaced Blue Jays. Kernion then returned to New Orleans where he took charge of launching a second satellite school at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie for those Blue Jays who had not evacuated.
Kernion holds a master’s in educational administration from the University of New Orleans. He has served at Jesuit since 1996 as an English teacher and an assistant coach for the cross country and track teams. He was assistant disciplinarian, academic scheduler and director of the summer school program. He was assistant principal of student affairs since 2001. Kernion and his wife Amy have two children and are parishioners of St. Catherine of Siena Church.
Karen McNay, president, Ursuline Academy, New Orleans, has served most recently as principal of Christ the King School, the largest Catholic school in the Diocese of Lexington, Ky. The Presidential Search Committee said McNay’s varied background “encompassing academic, administrative and business experience is viewed as a key asset in leading the academy into the future.”
McNay earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in education from Xavier University (Ohio) and certifications allowing her to serve as both an elementary and high school principal. She is an educational leadership doctoral student at the University of Kentucky.
“Now is a time for Ursuline to move forward confidently,” said Eugene Priestly, chairman of the board of trustees. “We believe in the work our faculty and administrators are doing, and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve. We are building new facilities that, once complete, will successfully combine tradition with modern learning facilities rivaling any school in the South. We will become more aggressive in student recruitment and marketing of Ursuline in our community. We will also work to welcome our alumnae back to Ursuline so they can see the legacy that they helped create during their time on State Street. More importantly, we want our alumnae to embrace how our daughters are fashioning their own legacy of leadership and excellence here.”
John Serio, principal, Archbishop Chapelle High School, Metairie, was the founding principal of Archbishop Hannan High School in Meraux in 1987 and served in that capacity for 20 years. He succeeds former principal Cathy Yaeger. Since 2007, Serio served as head of schools at Kehoe-France School in Metairie.
Serio has more than four decades of service in Catholic education. He taught English at Jesuit High School and was an English teacher, guidance counselor and admissions director at Holy Cross School. He later served as assistant principal at Pope John Paul II High School in Slidell before being named the first principal of Archbishop Hannan High in 1987.
While at Hannan, Serio steadily built enrollment and infrastructure so that the school became a model of academic and spiritual excellence. Hurricane Katrina devastated the campus, forcing the archdiocese to move the school to the northshore, first to the grounds of St. Joseph’s Abbey and later to a new site in Covington.
Serio holds a bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University and a master’s degree in education from Tulane University.
“The fact that Archbishop Chapelle has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for innovation, leadership and educational excellence gives me great confidence that our school will continue to be on the cutting edge of curriculum development through technology integration,” Serio said.
“Mr. Serio has shown extraordinary commitment to Catholic education over the years,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond said. “His experience and leadership will be blessings to the Archbishop Chapelle community.”
Marie B. Comeaux, principal, St. Peter Catholic School, Reserve, served in many different capacities at Resurrection of Our Lord School in New Orleans for the past 12 years before being selected as the principal of St. Peter. She received her bachelor of arts degree in history from Loyola University New Orleans in 2001 and began her teaching career at Resurrection. She taught social studies to students in grades 6-8, and her students placed regularly at the district Social Studies Fair. She was promoted to lead teacher of the middle school, disciplinarian and assistant principal.
Comeaux has chaired the school’s disciplinary committee, co-chaired the school’s annual dinner and auction, served on the school’s building and school leadership committees. She organized the transition of Resurrection to the campus of St. Paul the Apostle following the 2012 arson fire at Resurrection and was solely responsible for the daily operations at the satellite facility and the supervision of the teachers. In her role as assistant principal, Comeaux was the site test coordinator for state and district standardized tests and was instrumental in aligning the curriculum and assessments with national standards. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Grand Canyon University.
“I continue to grow in appreciation for the many people who daily participate in the mission of Catholic education,” Comeaux said. “I look forward to this opportunity of continuing the dream of Msgr. Eyraud with and for the community of St. Peter and the people of Reserve.”
Karen Henderson, principal, St. Rita School, New Orleans, has 13 years of experience as an educator. She began tutoring children in 1996 at the CARE Center, a women’s shelter operated by Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. It was working with the children at the CARE Center that ignited her passion for teaching children.
Henderson has taught middle and high school students in Caddo Parish, New Orleans public schools and in Kentucky. She earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville. Henderson has served as a teacher, school counselor, student support specialist and most recently as director of assessment with the Recovery School District, where she led the implementation and facilitation of assessment for 68 schools in the New Orleans area.
“As an educator, one holds the most awesome responsibility in one’s hands – educating, developing, nurturing and shaping the minds and hearts of our youth,” Henderson said. “As the principal of St. Rita Catholic School, I hope to continue to fulfill the mission of faith, knowledge and service to all of our students and return the honor of National Blue Ribbon recognition as well.”
Jesuit Brother Lawrence J. Huck, president, The Good Shepherd Nativity Mission School, New Orleans, is the 12-year-old school’s first president. Good Shepherd, founded by Jesuit Father Harry Tompson, serves low-income, urban youth. The school’s extended-day, year-round program is integrated with personal, moral and spiritual development, and since opening it has graduated and placed 47 students in college preparatory high schools throughout New Orleans.
Brother Lawrence, a native of New Orleans, graduated from Jesuit High School, Creighton University and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. He completed the Ignatian Leadership and Ministry of Management programs, and he has taught at Jesuit High School in both Tampa and New Orleans, where he served lengthy terms on both high school boards. He was recently on the faculty of Berchmans Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, La., where he also served as the New Orleans province representative for renovations to St. Charles College. He is a consultant for the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province.
Brother Lawrence will work closely with principal Emily Paul, the board of directors and benefactors to ensure that The Good Shepherd School continues to foster the academic and personal growth of its students.
“The greater New Orleans area has, from the beginning, continually played an integral part in the success of Good Shepherd School,” Brother Lawrence said. “I’m excited to be a part of this tradition, and I look forward to working with our students, their families, friends and our benefactors.”
Precious Joseph, principal, Our Lady of Grace School, Reserve, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Southern University and her master’s plus-30 degree at Southeastern Louisiana University. She was a teacher and an administrator in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools for 38 years, and served as principal at Glade Elementary School in LaPlace. She retired from the school system as director of education.
“My vision for Our Lady of Grace School is to have the children safe and nurtured in a clean environment,” Joseph said. “I want them to be happy, and I want them to receive an excellent education.”
Michael Kraus, principal, St. Peter School, Covington, is a 1999 graduate of Archbishop Rummel High School. He studied at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, discerning a possible call to the priesthood, before deciding he was “ultimately called to matrimony and work within Catholic education.”
He served for five years in youth ministry at St. John the Baptist Parish in Folsom and three years teaching mathematics at Pope John Paul II High School. For four years at the University of New Orleans and Insight Educational Center, he worked with administrators of various schools throughout Jefferson Parish to develop interventions for students struggling in math, reading and behavior. He also led professional development in-services to teachers and administrators concerning school-wide interventions to improve academic and behavior programs.
Kraus earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of New Orleans. He served as dean of students at St. Peter School for the last two years.
“This time as a Catholic administrator further increased my desire to work in leadership within Catholic education,” Kraus said. “Through collaboration with teachers and parents, we developed a Catholic positive behavior program, revised the disciplinary process and added a stronger Catholic identity to our athletics programs.”
Kraus and his wife Michelle have three children, all of whom attend St. Peter.
“The ultimate goal of Catholic education is to form students as children of God by helping them to grow as servant leaders in preparation for the vocation to which they are called by Jesus Christ,” Kraus said. “As principal, I hope to serve St. Peter Catholic School through God’s grace by empowering teachers and collaborating with parents to fulfill the mission and vision of our pastor – to help our students grow intellectually, apostolically, humanly and spiritually.”
Candice W. Schott, principal, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Kenner, is a native of St. Francisville, La. She began her career in education at Pope John Paul II High School in Slidell in 2000. After completing her M.Ed. in school counseling at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2005, Schott began working for the newly formed Holy Rosary High School as both a counselor and English teacher. In her eight years at Holy Rosary, Schott helped develop the program, serving as counselor, assistant principal, coach and teacher.
Schott and her husband Garrick Schott have two young children who attend St. Catherine of Siena School.
“I want to thank the Archdiocese of New Orleans for the faith they have placed in me as the spiritual and educational leader of this wonderful school,” Schott said. “I look forward to further supporting and strengthening the mission of OLPH and the Catholic schools of New Orleans as a whole in my new position.”
Camille Ross Treaudo, principal, Holy Ghost School, New Orleans, is a native of New Orleans and a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana. She received a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She also has completed coursework in the Catholic School Principalship Development Program. She is also a fellow of the School Leadership Center of New Orleans and the recipient of the Order of St. Louis Medallion for her service to the church community.
She has been a Catholic educator for more than 30 years as a teacher, development director and principal. She was principal of Our Lady of Good Counsel School from 1983-88, St. Simon Peter from 1993-2005 and Our Lady of Grace in Reserve from 2006-10.
Treaudo said she is eager to begin this new phase of her educational ministry.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “Looking into the eyes of children gives me so much joy, just knowing that I can make a difference. I plan to encourage pride and dignity and hold all accountable to do their part. We will do all that we can to continue providing the children with a quality education at Holy Ghost School, nurturing their minds and hearts, sharing the love of Jesus and preparing them for the future.”