As the Diocese of Knoxville’s 10 schools prepare for the 2013-14 academic year, Notre Dame and Sacred Heart will have new leadership for the first time in a decade or more.
George Valadie returns to the Chattanooga high school he graduated from in 1971 and later served in teaching, coaching and administrative positions. He will serve as Notre Dame’s first president—a new position that includes administration and development roles.
And Sarah Trent takes over as principal at Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Knoxville after having served as an assistant principal at a Catholic school in Florida.
Mr. Valadie, who succeeds Perry Storey, and Mrs. Trent, who follows Sedonna Prater, officially began their positions July 1.
Notre Dame’s new president said he has seen a dramatic change since he left the 137-year-old school 20 years ago when he was assistant principal to take a principalship at a Vicksburg, Miss., Catholic school.
He served in the Vicksburg position for six years, and for the last 14 years he has been principal of St. Benedict at Auburndale High School in Cordova, Tenn.
“It’s a little different place than when I left. Over the past 20 years the facility has changed with two major additions. I think we have tremendous opportunities for growth,” Mr. Valadie said, noting that enrollment at the high school is 400.
He praised Notre Dame’s academic programs, calling them “outstanding,” and said he intends to improve on that outstanding track record.
However, growth will be a focus of his as the new school year begins.
“We can grow. It’s an opportunity for us, but it’s also an opportunity for families in the area to find an outstanding education that is affordable to many people,” he said.
And as growth occurs, he wants to ensure that they are prepared for college and the work world when they graduate.
“We are preparing students for jobs that do not now exist. Part of that is helping kids learn to think, helping kids learn to work together and use all of the technology at their fingertips. Our job is to give our students an excellent education based on the tenets of the Catholic Church,“ he said.
Mrs. Trent feels a similar sense of responsibility.
She believes Sacred Heart has exemplary academic programs that should prepare elementary school students for middle school success and middle school students for high school success.
“There are so many things going well here. I’m uncovering layers of excellent programs here and I want to get a bird’s eye view of everything before we tweak anything,” she said.
Mrs. Trent, who has two children at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, said the academic year will begin fresh from a five-year reaccreditation review by AdvancED, a leading U.S. school accreditation organization.
She said the internal audit, held in May, yielded “exemplary” marks, and she credited Mrs. Prater, diocesan schools’ new director of curriculum and instruction, for directing academic programs that resulted in reaccreditation.
Moving forward, Mrs. Trent plans to focus on the spiritual, academic and social/emotional development of the Sacred Heart students.
“Our faith is who we are. Our children should know every day that they attend a Catholic school. Academically, are we implementing the best programs to meet their needs as they progress toward high school? And socially and emotionally, are we teaching them to be good citizens? Yes, we are. It’s about their total development, and we need to make sure we continue serving our students with exemplary programs,” she said.
Mrs. Trent said Sacred Heart’s enrollment for the upcoming school year is 600, which is higher than in years past. That means she and new assistant principal Lisa Maki, who has been a Sacred Heart teacher for 15 years, will be busy making sure the school continues its success.
“It’s a very exciting time to be a part of Sacred Heart parish and school. We will continue to recognize what we do well and review our programs to determine what’s important and where we may need to take a different approach,” she said.