Cathedral School ends search for administrator; restructures current leadership

Published 4:39 pm Thursday, March 23, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Cathedral’s search for a new head administrator has come to an end without any staffing changes, announced St. Mary Basilica Rector the Very Rev. Aaron M. Williams on Thursday.

Interim Chief Administrator Pat Sanguinetti came out of a brief retirement from his prior 14 years in Cathedral administration to lead the school for the 2022-2023 school year. Former administrator Jessica Carter stepped down in April 2022 after nearly a year leading the preK-12 Catholic school.

Moving forward, Elementary School Principal Kimberly Burkley and Middle and High School Principal Robin Branton will share some of the responsibilities of a lead administrator while keeping their current duties.

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Meanwhile, Williams said he would provide administrative oversight as the Rector and Chancellor, offering Branton and Burkley support in the enforcement of policies and procedures and the faculty a second opinion on personnel matters.

In a letter to parents, students and Cathedral staff released Thursday, Williams also said he would continue being present on campus as he has since he was assigned to pastor St. Mary Basilica in 2022. Next school year, Williams will have an office at the school to make himself more accessible to students and faculty.

“I pledge to maintain my physical presence on campus, which has allowed me this past year to have first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the School and the needs of our students, who are the most important body of constituents,” Williams states.

Sanguinetti, who will continue to tie up any loose ends at Cathedral until June 30, said the school would be left in good hands with the two administrators taking over those responsibilities.

“It has been an easy year,” he said. “They do — I want to say the bulk of the work — they do all the work. I come in and work on finances and now I’m doing contracts for the next school year and budgets and things like that. It has been easy.”

Tentatively, Sanguinetti said he would like to move to New Orleans and become a server there but would probably never fully retire from work altogether.

“We appreciated Mr. Sanguinetti coming in and being the interim this past year,” Branton said. “He has been great to work with and he has been helpful in helping us lead since he has so much history here. I appreciate his guidance.”

Burkley said she and Branton both share a vision of continuing the school’s success without making any drastic changes.

“We both are passionate about how the school moves forward and its success in the future and want stability and structure,” she said. “We have an awesome school and want to keep it moving in a positive direction.”

Read Williams’ full letter to Cathedral below:

Dear Cathedral Family,

For the past year, Cathedral has undergone a review of our administrative procedures so that we could determine the best path forward to provide stable guidance for our school.  The presence of Mr. Pat Sanguinetti on campus has allowed us to solidify the direction of our program, and given support to our principals as we studied a new administrative model for the school. I would like to personally thank Mr. Sanguinetti for his advice and guidance to me, and to express gratitude on behalf of all of Cathedral Catholic School for agreeing to serve in this interim role for the 2022-2023 year.

During the course of the year, we also received and reviewed applications for the position of President, and were able to meet a number of impressive candidates who had many different visions for our program. Through this experience, one point repeatedly became clear: Cathedral has a unique tradition and an impressive program which is worth preserving, and entitles our institution to the status of respect we already have in the Miss-Lou community.

That program has, in no small part, been preserved and built up through the administrative guidance of Mrs. Kimberly Burkley (Elementary School Principal) and Mrs. Robin Branton (Middle & High School Principal). I have found it an immense privilege to work with them this past year. Both of them bring considerable dedication to their individual positions and share a common vision with me for the future of Cathedral. Cohesion within the administrative team is essential to providing the stability Cathedral needs to carry us into the next era of our school, and that is something I am confident we already possess.

For that reason, receiving the recommendation of Karla Luke, Executive Director for Catholic Education, and Bishop Joseph Kopacz, we have determined to conclude our search for a President, and instead to maintain the model of administration we have used this past year. At the conclusion of the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Mr. Pat Sanguinetti will once again retire as an administrator of Cathedral Catholic School. At that point, Mrs. Burkey and Mrs. Branton will remain in their positions of Principals, with the addition of some duties which are necessary for the daily operation of the school. 

• In addition to her role in the Elementary School, Mrs. Burkley will assume administrative responsibility for the Cafeteria and Business Office. Cathedral will also contract a third party to assist the Business Office in the 2023-2024 academic year as the school transitions to the Diocesan model for tuition payments through the FACTS system.

• In addition to her role in the Middle and High School, Mrs. Branton will assume administrative responsibility for Campus Maintenance and Athletics, working in conjunction with Coach Josh Loy, who recently assumed the position of Athletic Director.

• Both principals will share responsibility for oversight of communication and development, the mission/vision/philosophy of the school, and the development of long-term strategic plan for Cathedral.

• In my role as Rector/Chancellor, I will provide administrative oversight over both principals, and support them in the development and enforcement of policies and procedures. My presence will also afford the faculty the support of a second opinion on personnel matters. And, I pledge to maintain my physical presence on campus, which has allowed me this past year to have first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the school and the needs of our students, who are the most important body of constituents. Cathedral exists to serve the needs of our student body, and their good must always be our foremost concern. To assist this, I decided to also establish an office for myself at the school where I will be able to more easily meet with students and faculty.

Already, we have begun a complete review of our handbook and policies in light of this past year. Our experience from the 2022-2023 school year has demonstrated what areas of our program should be improved, and we have been grateful for the input from students, faculty and parents in this regard. We look forward to releasing information about these changes in the coming weeks.

Finally, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to our incredible faculty and staff. We are blessed with an immensely selfless group of individuals at Cathedral who are motivated by a genuine love for our students. I personally appreciate their patience with me as I assumed my responsibilities in our school as a new member of our community. None of our success is possible without their tireless dedication.

I appreciate your prayers for our school as we move forward, and look forward to more communications regarding the 2023-2024 academic year in the near future.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Very Rev. Aaron M. Williams