By Bill Brewer
The 2021-22 school year has begun with new leadership at St. Jude School in Chattanooga.
Longtime principal Jamie Goodhard announced last school year her intention to retire at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. Dr. Joshua Overton has been named St. Jude’s new principal.
St. Jude didn’t have to look far for Mrs. Goodhard’s successor. Dr. Overton served for seven years as a middle-school science teacher at St. Jude and four years as the middle-school dean at the school on the St. Jude Parish campus.
“In administration in Catholic schools you wear many hats. You just do what’s needed on a day-to-day basis, from academics to behavior to scheduling, teacher mentorships, teacher observations, just whatever is needed,” Dr. Overton said.
He said he looks forward to leading St. Jude, continuing what Mrs. Goodhard has worked to accomplish.
Dr. Overton grew up in Kingsport, where he met his wife while they were in high school. They both relocated to Chattanooga for jobs and were married.
He said his primary goals for St. Jude are the health and safety of the students, making adequate academic achievement, and to grow the school “to be the absolute best that we can be.”
“We have all the tools we need to succeed,” he said.
Mrs. Goodhard had served as principal of St. Jude for 20 years and was on the faculty at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School for nine years before that. She explained that it was a good time for her to retire because she had put the time into her education vocation, and her husband was retiring, too.
But while she is officially retiring as principal, she is continuing to work in administration with the Diocese of Knoxville’s 10 schools as accreditation and special projects coordinator. In this part-time position, she will be assisting diocesan schools superintendent Dr. Sedonna Prater and is occupying an office at Notre Dame High School.
“It’s great. It’s giving me a chance to do some things that I didn’t have time to do before,” Mrs. Goodhard said, enumerating her goals for her new position. “We are ready for an accreditation visit in the spring, and most recently I have been looking at our test scores over the last year to see how the pandemic has influenced achievement and mastery from our kids.”
She wants to use the results from that study to plan academic instruction going forward.
Dr. Prater said the selection of Dr. Overton to succeed Mrs. Goodhard reflects the leadership development program the diocesan schools office has in place.
“When you talk about leadership succession, this is an excellent example and a good model for leadership succession and planning. Jamie Goodhard has had a long and committed service record to the Diocese of Knoxville. She has a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. As she was preparing for retirement and beginning to pull away from the full-time work of being a principal, she was training one of her teachers who had worked on his doctorate in education administration. Father Charlie [Burton, St. Jude Parish pastor] was in support and concurred with the decision,” Dr. Prater said.
She noted that this process gave Dr. Overton time to be introduced to actual school administration and to ease into the principalship for a smooth transition.
“It has been a great thing for the St. Jude community. I applaud Father Charlie and Mrs. Goodhard for their foresight and in their planning for leadership succession,” Dr. Prater said. “He [Dr. Overton] is doing a phenomenal job already. He knows the community. He knows the teachers, the staff, the students. They’re already ahead of the game in trying to continue to move the school forward.”
Dr. Prater explained how she was fortunate to persuade Mrs. Goodhard to continue serving Diocese of Knoxville schools in her new position.
“She can help me with the accreditation process and also in mentoring new principals. … I feel really blessed that she is going to continue sharing her wisdom and insights in helping us. It’s a huge benefit,” Dr. Prater said.
The past two years have been a time of great change in diocesan schools leadership, with the additions of new principals at St. Dominic School in Kingsport, St. Mary School in Johnson City, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Chattanooga, St. Mary School in Oak Ridge, Sacred Heart Cathedral School, Notre Dame High School, and St. Jude.
“We have a lot of new people, and the mentoring of them falls on me. Having Jamie to help me with that is a great benefit,” Dr. Prater said, noting that the Diocese of Knoxville’s 10 schools will be going through the process of renewing their accreditation in 2022. “Jamie will be facilitating all the work with accreditation.”