Experienced educator and administrator takes the helm at Holy Rosary

Halliburton

This school year will be Kimber Halliburton’s first as principal of Holy Rosary Academy. But it’s definitely not her first rodeo, so to speak.

Halliburton, an experienced educator and school administrator, has served as principal of four Metro Nashville Public Schools, and as superintendent of two small school districts, one in Tennessee and the other in Mississippi.

When Halliburton learned about the principal position at Holy Rosary, she decided to come out of retirement and take on another new role. “I said, ‘Sounds great, I’d love to be back in school.’”

Taking the helm at Holy Rosary will be a homecoming of sorts for Halliburton, a parishioner at St. Matthew Church in Franklin who grew up in the Donelson neighborhood, where she graduated from McGavock High School. “This is my old stomping grounds,” she said.

The main thoroughfare of Donelson, Lebanon Pike, runs up to Hermitage, Old Hickory, Mt. Juliet and beyond. The road “has so many churches on it,” Halliburton said. “It’s a really big faith-based community here. … It’s exciting to be back.”

Halliburton began her career as a special education teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools at J.E. Moss Elementary School in 1988. While serving as a Metro teacher, she taught in both general and special education classroom settings.

She left MNPS for an opportunity to teach in her home parish at the time, St. Henry, where her children attended school. She taught fourth grade at St. Henry School for nearly six years.

In 2000, Halliburton returned to MNPS, and served as the lead principal of four different schools over the years: Lockeland Elementary in East Nashville, Bellevue Middle School, Harpeth Valley Elementary School, and Waverly Belmont Elementary School.

Two of those, Lockeland and Waverly Belmont, she helped launch from the ground up. Lockeland, where Halliburton’s daughter now teaches, was named a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School.

Before retiring and returning to her children and family in Nashville, Halliburton served as a superintendent of schools in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Under her leadership, the Washington County School System received the highest possible ranking from the Tennessee Department of Education. While she was serving as the superintendent in Madison, Mississippi, the district went from ranking 15th to fourth for overall academic performance on state assessments.

Halliburton earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Middle Tennessee State University and a master’s in educational leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. She is currently working on her doctorate degree in leadership and professional practice at Trevecca and is scheduled to complete her dissertation in June 2021.

With a boatload of professional experience and credentials under her belt, Halliburton still says one of her most important qualifications for the job at Holy Rosary is her role as a mom.

“I’ve raised three children,” she said. “I know parents are doing the best they know how, and I want to support them. … I want to help parents navigate the world they’re raising their children in.”

Right now, Halliburton faces the challenge of keeping her Holy Rosary faculty and students safe, healthy and engaged in school. “We’ve put every measure we can humanly put in place to have the safest start to school,” she said.

With open enrollment in place, Holy Rosary is still accepting new students, and receiving a lot of interest from public school families who are ready for in-person learning and not satisfied with the virtual experience. “Kids need socialization for their emotional and physical health,” Halliburton said.

Like other Catholic school principals in the Diocese of Nashville, Halliburton is busy spreading the word about her school and making sure families of all faiths know they are welcome, and that a Catholic education can be affordable.

“Enrollment is a challenge,” she said. But this moment “is a grand opportunity” for Catholic schools, she added.

“I’m very excited about the return to school.”

For more information about Holy Rosary Academy, visit https://www.holyrosary.edu/

New St. John Vianney principal working hard to promote ‘hidden gem in Gallatin’

Eskert

Taking the reins as the new principal of a school during a pandemic might seem like a daunting challenge, but new St. John Vianney Principal Natalie Eskert sees it as an opportunity.

“This is a blessing in disguise,” she said of the pandemic. “Now we have the opportunity to share our faith with a new generation of students.”

“My goal is to create a rich and rigorous education program while providing an atmosphere that is full of love and Christ-centered,” Eskert wrote in a message to St. John Vianney families. “I am motivated to make sure our students are engaged in purposeful learning and taught the value of being a life-long learner.”

Eskert is doing all she can to promote St. John Vianney School and spread the word about “the hidden gem in Gallatin.” She’s making sure the website is updated and optimized; she’s talking with interested families and leading school tours almost every day. “Some people come with the paperwork signed and ready to go,” she said.

As the only pre-K through eighth grade Catholic school in Sumner County, and one of the few private schools in the county, St. John Vianney is well positioned to welcome families who are craving a regular schedule of in-person learning, Eskert said. When Sumner County announced its plans to have students in the classroom only two days a week, “our phones were ringing nonstop,” she said.

“We’ve done a lot of prepping, research, and collaboration with the diocese to get ready to get back in the classroom,” Eskert said.

With an 8:1 student to faculty ratio, St. John Vianney will be able to keep students adequately spaced out in their classrooms and common spaces. “It definitely helps that we’re smaller,” in re-assuring families that their child will be safe at school, Eskert said. For the families that want to be part of the community but are not comfortable with in-person learning yet, St. John Vianney will offer distance learning as well to start the year, Eskert said.

Eskert comes to St. John Vianney from St. Joseph School in Madison, where she served for one year as the Director of Instructional Programs. Prior to that she lived in Miami where she began her 18-year career in education. She gained experience at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, the Miami-Dade County Public School system, and Miami Dade College as an adjunct professor.

While this is Eskert’s first role as principal, she served in administrative and leadership positions throughout her career.

“She has an excellent grasp on curriculum design, technology integration, and innovative programming, all of which will serve the students and families of St. John Vianney well,” Diocese of Nashville Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel wrote in a letter to the St. John Vianney community announcing Eskert’s hire in May. “We believe the school is well-positioned for the future and that Miss Eskert is the leader to move us forward.”

In addition to the St. John Vianney School getting a new principal, the parish also has a new pastor, Father Rick Childress, who previously served at Immaculate Conception in Clarksville.

“We’re excited,” Eskert said. “It’s going to be a nice partnership. We have the same vision, goals and aspirations for the school.”

For more information about St. John Vianney School, visit http://saintjohnvianney.org/