Natalie Eskert, the new principal of St. John Vianney School in Gallatin this school year, has quickly built a rapport with the school and parish community, and with their buy-in, is moving the school forward.
“Every time I’ve expressed a vision to the parents or parishioners, we’ve been able to bring it to life,” she said.
One of her visions coming to fruition this semester is a brand-new school bus, which will enable the school to offer transportation to students to and from school.
“There’s a huge Catholic population in Hendersonville, but no Catholic elementary school to serve them,” Eskert said of Gallatin’s neighboring Sumner County city.
The bus service will help ease some of the “the crazy hustle and bustle that families have in the mornings and afternoons,” she said.
The school is already using the 15-passenger bus, a gift from Wood Motor Company, owned by a St. John Vianney family, to transport the basketball team to and from games. “They say their favorite part of playing on the team is riding on the bus,” Eskert said.
When the bus service to/from school launches this spring, the first stop will be at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville, with other stops possibly added along the way, Eskert said. The school is also looking into adding a route from the Lebanon/Mt. Juliet corridor, but is still working out all the logistics of the routes.
St. John Vianney, with an 8:1 student to faculty ratio, is one of the smaller schools in the Diocese of Nashville, and Eskert said the bus will be a unique recruitment tool to attract more families.
“We have a really great product, and we can bring Catholic education to more people this way,” she said.
The second of Eskert’s initiatives coming to fruition, with the support of the school and parish community, is a new “Knights of Columbus STEM Creation Space.” The addition of two different kinds of 3D printers, along with other equipment and materials set up in the converted computer lab, will help support the school’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math, Eskert said.
“We really want to put an emphasis on STEM at the school,” she said. The new “maker space” will be a way to “get kids to think critically, outside the box,” Eskert added.
When she first proposed the idea, “several Knights of Columbus stepped forward to cover the costs,” she said. “They took the idea and ran with it.”
She offered special thanks to members of the Knights of Columbus Bishop Choby Council 10010, especially members Brian Beddoes, a St. John Vianney parent, and his father, Richard Beddoes, as well
as Anthony Cameli and Robert Johnson, who helped with fundraising and purchasing equipment for the space.
“I want to say how grateful I am to everyone who’s taken a vision and turned it into a reality,” Eskert said. “It’s been so great being here with the families’ support.”
For more information about the school, visit saintjohnvianney.org.