Annual Report 2022

In the 2022 Annual Report, the story of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Nashville is revealed. Building on a rich foundation over a century old in Middle Tennessee, we have grown in many ways these last few years while also preserving our heritage and the traditions that are unique to our individual school communities and our collective system of schools.

We have seen swift changes in education in recent years, many prompted by the pandemic, which challenged old paradigms and presented new methods of interacting and engaging with one another. We overcame challenges and allowed the bumps and bruises experienced along the way to serve as opportunities for growth. Today we are thriving – growing in number, expanding facilities, and becoming stronger as a system of schools that delivers so much to our local communities.

Bishop Spalding often speaks of the value of family and community. Through our togetherness, we form supporting, loving relationships that connect our souls to one another and to God, a lesson so critical for our young people to understand. For in that, comes the knowledge that God’s love is unconditional, He is ever-present, and nothing is insurmountable. Nothing! Our world needs our Catholic schools, which is why we are proud to deliver young men and women who will lead our communities with poise, integrity, and faith.

We have a great story to tell, one that will impact generations to come.

Thank you, parents, for sharing your children with us. Thank you, friends and benefactors, who support us. Enjoy this story that follows, then share it with another.


Mission of the Catholic Schools Office

The Catholic Schools Office (CSO) of the Diocese of Nashville embodies the evangelizing and educational missions of the Catholic Church. The CSO provides vision and guidance to the Catholic schools to promote healthy, vibrant educational communities. By uniting all in our common mission, the CSO supports our Catholic schools to produce future leaders of the Church and the world, grounded in Christ’s call to bring the Gospel to all people.

Our Purpose​

The Catholic schools of the Diocese of Nashville are centered in the person of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the unique qualities of each school community and welcome students of various races, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, faiths, and learning abilities. Our tradition of excellence in academics and faith formation, enhanced by partnering with families, educates the whole child: mind, body, and spirit. Catholic schools build strong minds, kind hearts, and confident leaders in faith.

Building Kind Hearts​

Our schools are places where the good news of Jesus Christ is known, proclaimed, and lived. Each school embraces a variety of programs and service opportunities that center on the dignity of the human person. We develop, guide, and nurture our students to become mature, responsible members of society

“ Mission of the Catholic Schools Office The Catholic Schools Office (CSO) of the Diocese of Nashville embodies the evangelizing and educational missions of the Catholic Church. The CSO provides vision and guidance to the Catholic schools to promote healthy, vibrant educational communities. By uniting all in our common mission, the CSO supports our Catholic schools to produce future leaders of the Church and the world, grounded in Christ’s call to bring the Gospel to all people. WHY CHOOSE A CATHOLIC EDUCATION I choose to teach in a Catholic school because we believe that every student who enters our doors is a creation “ of God with unique talents and gifts. It is an incredible opportunity to be able to help students not only discover and develop those talents through an innovative and challenging curriculum, but also to support them as they deepen their faith in Christ and learn to live according to the Gospel in service to others.”

— Jennifer Dye, Dean of Faculty and Instruction, Pope John Paul II Preparatory School, Christ the Teacher 2022 Award Recipient

Strong Minds

We set ambitious standards of achievement for our students and help students realize their full potential. We prepare our students to be productive, well-rounded citizens who have the academic acumen and service oriented outlook to succeed in whichever path they choose.

Confident Leaders

Through intentional programming, our schools provide students opportunities to develop leadership skills. Whether on the sports field, a theater stage, or in the classroom, students are encouraged to use their voices, gifts, and talents to contribute to the common good. Students are poised to act with integrity and confidence as young adults.

A Safe Environment

Feeling safe at school is critical to the learning process, and therefore a priority for us. Our Catholic school communities build a trusting environment where children can thrive.

Upgrades to the physical environment enhance the security and safety of our schools. Camera systems, keypads, ID badges, and training help control access to our school buildings and foster preparedness to manage emergencies.

Each campus completes an annual school safety assessment through Catholic Mutual Risk Management in the fall and spring. These assessments generate recommendations for preventative measures and inform plans for needed enhancements.

Additionally, all faculty, staff, and volunteers participate in diocesan Safe Environment training, which includes background checks and screenings. Since the new program began in 2019, the diocese has conducted more than 9,000 background checks. Just this school year, the diocese has conducted 1,116 background checks and trained staff across all diocesan ministries.


Our Catholic faith is the foundation for everything we do in our Catholic schools. Each school is focused on academic excellence, personal growth, and ensuring that every child grows intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. We achieve these goals through a variety of means.

Exceptional Faculty and Staff

Our goal is to recruit, retain, and continuously develop an exceptional group of professionals who will care for our students, seek excellence in pedagogy, and bear witness to the Catholic faith in service to our students. The Catholic Schools Office sponsors two professional development days each year where faculty come together in collaborative and spiritual fellowship. A partnership with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, offers key leadership and educational assistance in several of our diocesan schools: leadership and faculty at St. Henry School, St. Patrick School, St. Rose of Lima School; and faculty at St. Joseph School.

“ Our mission at St. Matthew School is to educate and form our students to be their very best, to be who God created them to be. The honor of being a Blue Ribbon School and an Apple Distinguished School are a byproduct of the process of forming our students to become saints, their ultimate goal. We have built a team and community at St. Matthew School that want the very best for our students and encourages them to answer their unique call in the world.”

— Tim Forbes, Principal, St. Matthew School

Effective Leadership and Governance Models

Pope John Paul II Preparatory School will move from a head-of-school model to a president-principal model beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year. Father Ryan High School made the move to a president-principal model in 2007. St. Michael Academy, now under construction in Nolensville, will also employ the president-principal model when fully completed. This model allows our upper-level schools to operate more efficiently in their day-today operations while continuing to forge strong relationships with the community.

STEM, STREAM, and Apple Distinguished Schools: The Next Generation

Several of our Catholic schools adopted the STREAM concept, which includes the original STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and adds religion and art in pursuit of educating the whole child. With STREAM, Catholic schools are leading the way toward greater innovation, disciplinary integration, and holistic education in the classroom, while being purposefully attentive to ethical and moral realities.

Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence. These schools use Apple technology to create an academic environment that inspires creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

  • Pope John Paul II Preparatory School was recognized in the fall of 2022 as an Apple Distinguished School 2022–2025 for its innovative implementation of a 1:1 iPad program.
  • St. Matthew School was awarded the Advancement of Catholic Education (ACE) Innovations in STREAM Award in August 2021, and later recognized as an Apple Distinguished School.
  • Father Ryan High School, Holy Rosary Academy, St. John Vianney School, and St. Joseph School have recently established STEM labs. 

National Blue Ribbon of Distinction

Schools receiving the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction have been recognized for exceptional performance in four key areas that influence a school’s success: Student Support, Instruction, School Structure, and Curriculum. These Catholic schools have been recognized for this special distinction: Holy Rosary Academy (two-time winner), Overbrook School, St. Bernard Academy, and St. Matthew School.

Catholic Schools Advisory Council (CSAC)

Established in 2020, the Catholic Schools Advisory Council advises and supports the Catholic Schools Office. CSAC’s mission is to further the advancement of excellence in Catholic education for students in the Diocese of Nashville by providing leadership, direction, and support to the Bishop and the Superintendent of Schools.

CSAC Members

  • Frederick Strobel, Chair
  • Chris Callaghan
  • Eileen Cunningham
  • Cari Johns Isham
  • Rhonda Kinslow
  • Rev. Delphinus Mutajuka
  • Pat Shepherd
  • Rev. Mark Simpson
  • Sister Cecilia Anne Wanner, O.P.
  • Faye Waraksa


The Catholic Schools Office is steadfast in our commitment that our schools remain intellectually vibrant, financially strong, and operationally sound. Controlled, well-managed growth is a cornerstone of our longevity and vitality. From increases in student enrollment and new capital improvement projects to hiring additional faculty and staff, we are growing.

  • Opening in fall 2024, St. Michael Academy will set new standards for education on a sprawling campus infused with state-of-the-art facilities and innovative indoor/outdoor learning spaces.
  • This fall St. Joseph School embarked on a multiyear capital campaign to redesign the campus, improve security, and enhance learning spaces.
  • Dynamic, mission-aligned leadership; person-toperson education during COVID; strong family and school community bonds; and creative marketing have contributed to record enrollment at Holy Rosary Academy, St. Henry School, St. Matthew School, St. Rose of Lima School, St. John Vianney School, and Sacred Heart School, Lawrenceburg.

Diocesan school enrollment reaches highest level in over a decade

Beginning in 2020, diocesan schools saw a significant shift in enrollment. Thanks to the generosity and commitment of our volunteers, donors, trustees, the CSAC, and dedicated faculty and staff.

Construction of St. Michael’s Academy above. 

  • Christ the King School and Sacred Heart School, Loretto have undergone significant renovations in their facilities to improve student services and learning spaces.
  • Sacred Heart School, Lawrenceburg reorganized its offices and staffing to enhance security.
  • St. Ann School and St. John Vianney School saw persistent decreases in enrollment but thanks to programs such as ACE (page 16) both schools have reversed course and now and celebrate steady increases in enrollment for consecutive years.

Artist rendering above.

“ St. Joseph School is a vibrant, growing, and faith-filled family serving PreK2-8th grade. We are proud to offer big opportunities in an intimate setting with electives in grades 4-8, sports, clubs, and a leadership middle school program that includes wilderness trips around Tennessee and Moab, Utah!”

— Amy Lavender, Principal, St. Joseph School


The rich heritage of Catholic education in the Diocese of Nashville dates back to1856 with the opening of St. Patrick School in McEwen, Tennessee. The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Nashville educate students from the age 2 through high school graduation. Our 16 diocesan schools are located in seven of the 38 counties of Middle Tennessee that comprise the Diocese of Nashville. Diocesan Catholic schools include one high school, one preparatory school (grades 6-12), and 14 elementary schools, in addition to one independent Catholic school, and two schools operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation. Our diocesan Catholic schools are Cognia and State of Tennessee accredited.







“ Our Catholic schools are the region’s best kept secret. Our schools have a vast array of extracurricular and community activities, fostering a deep sense of community for students and families. I am incredibly thankful for our schools and for their commitment to helping students of all backgrounds and abilities achieve. They are a living example of God’s love.”

— Cari Johns Isham, Catholic Schools Advisory Council member and Christ the King School parent



“ At Catholic Schools, our children are reinforced with the same values we teach them in our home. That is of utmost importance to us. I’ve been very impressed by the Catholic approach to social and emotional learning. Catholic Schools look at our children as individuals who are worthy of dignity and respect as God made them. They are not just being trained in academic success, but also for success in relationships and the world.”

— Fran Jaeger, St. Matthew School parent and Father Ryan High School parent

Our Catholic Schools have a tradition of excellence. Our high school graduates attend ivy league schools and Catholic institutions of higher education and public and private colleges and universities. They pursue the trades, military service, and religious vocations. By attending a Catholic school, students find a well-balanced curriculum in the fine arts, STEM activities, clubs, and events that help develop their gifts and talents. This comprehensive programming nurtures the whole student — mind, body, and soul.

Class of 2022-23 average ACT scores+

Iowa Assessment Spring 2022 National Percentile Rank (NPR)

Every grade level scored well above the national average in each subject of the Iowa test in reading, English language arts, math, social studies, and science. *Kindergarten assesses only the subjects listed. Not all schools assess students at the kindergarten level. +ACT comparison for Pope John Paul II Preparatory School.


Inclusive education is at the heart of our Exceptional Learning program. As enrollment continues to grow, so does the number of students needing support. In 2019, a director was hired to lead the Exceptional Learning program to ensure we are providing a high quality, Catholic school experience for students with developmental conditions, learning differences, and exceptional learning needs. Our diocesan schools support students whose learning needs might pose barriers to success in the classroom. While resources and support vary by school, classroom teachers, learning specialists, counselors, and administrators in every school work together with families to find ways to flex and adapt teaching styles to fit students’ needs.

“ Our efforts to provide an effective and personalized approach to education ensures our diocesan schools will be able to support a wide variety of student profiles. Additionally, with intentional focus on supporting all learners, we provide a great deal of professional development to strengthen and enhance our teachers and professional staffs’ knowledge of how students learn best.”

— Kathy Harrigan Boles, Executive Director of Exceptional Learning, Catholic Schools Office

“We believe all students have something important to offer in our schools. That is why it is vital that we learn together.”

—Bishop J. Mark Spalding

Mission of Hand in Hand Options

Our mission is to provide an inclusive Catholic education that empowers students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those with learning differences, to reach their fullest potential.

HIHO is a Faith-Based Experience

Students attending our Catholic schools are embraced for their unique God-given abilities. Our exceptional learners work hand-in-hand with their student mentors in an environment where both bear witness to the transformative power of Christ’s love. Each gives of oneself, and, in return, each learns what it means to live to their fullest potential.

HIHO is a Community of Support

We know it takes a group of people, including parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, learning specialists, and in some cases, outside resources, to support a child with learning differences. Our schools collaborate with parents and other professionals to develop short-term solutions and long-term strategies designed specifically to help each child succeed.

HIHO offers a Strategy for Success

We develop individualized plans for students needing support based on testing, observation, and other information. Plans may include intervention strategies, accommodations, and curriculum modifications to establish a child’s individual academic and behavioral goals.

HIHO Board of Trustees

  • Chad Handshy, President
  • Ed Warner, Vice President
  • Julie Bauer, Secretary
  • Joe Sullivan, Treasurer
  • Elise McMillan, Past President
  • Carolyn Baker
  • Tanya Chavez
  • Kay Dodd
  • Carol Dunn
  • Pam Eatman
  • Bill Gavigan
  • Dr. Paul Heil
  • Valeria Matlock
  • Jason Stacy
  • Rev. Anthony Stewart

For more information about HIHO, contact Kathy Harrigan Boles, Executive Director of Exceptional Learning, at


The goal of the Advancement of Catholic Education (ACE) is to ensure that Catholic schools in the Diocese of Nashville are available, accessible, and affordable. Earnings from ACE’s endowment provide tuition assistance to families who seek an exceptional Catholic education for their children but find the cost beyond their reach.

Annually the ACE board, in collaboration with the Catholic Schools Office and the Diocesan Development team, hosts an evening fundraising event that raises money for its endowment and celebrates the successes of individuals in our Catholic schools. Half of the monies raised at the event are used immediately to provide tuition assistance to families. The other half funds the ACE endowment to provide financial support for tuition assistance for generations to come.

At the 2018 ACE fundraising event, Bishop Spalding issued a challenge to increase the ACE endowment from $3 million to $30 million. Achieving this goal will enable more students to come from our Catholic schools. To date the ACE endowment has grown to $10 million with $20 million in additional funds to come from the diocesan Legacy Campaign.

“More and more people have a growing appreciation of the importance of the ACE endowment. It ensures that a Catholic education in the diocese remains accessible.”

— Dr. Rebecca Hammel

ACE Funds Support Our Diocesan Catholic Schools in Three Ways

  • Offer financial assistance to families. ACE funds are distributed to our diocesan Catholic Schools to support tuition assistance for families to attend Catholic schools.
  • Finance Enrollment Incentive Grants of $8,000 for up to 10 elementary schools. The schools receive half of the money if their enrollment at the start of the school year is greater than at the end of the previous school year, and the other half if their enrollment at the start of the second semester is greater than at the start of the school year.
  • Provide funds for students with special needs and school projects.

“Imagine if every child had the benefit of a good Catholic education.”

— Mike Shea, ACE Board Trustee


“ With ESA funding, parents who could have only imagined providing a high-quality, faith-based education for their child can now turn this possibility into a reality, There are no words to describe the happiness on the faces of parents as we meet with them to enroll their children. “

— Kimber Halliburton, Principal, Holy Rosary Academy

Education Savings Account (ESA) Program — Providing new opportunities for families in our pursuit of Living and Proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, Welcoming All!

What is the ESA Program?

The ESA Program, adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2019, provides funds for eligible families in Davidson and Shelby counties. The funds, designated by the State of Tennessee, assist with tuition and other education-related expenses for children to attend participating private schools. After the legislation was passed, the diocese worked with state officials to overcome the flurry of immediate legal challenges to the new law. The diocese encouraged state officials to meet with, and listen to, families who would benefit the most from a successful defense of the new law. Through prayer and perseverance, the court upheld the new law, thereby providing families new support to send their children to a faith-based school. Since the program’s adoption, the Catholic Schools Office has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Education to provide additional school choices to families. The CSO hosted information sessions at four diocesan elementary schools in fall of 2022.

“Public schools aren’t going to take your kids to Mass and Holy Rosary Academy will. I like that.”

— Giovanni Mejia

Giovanni Mejia and Cindy Toral have used the state’s new ESA program to enroll their children, Mia, 10, and Luca, 6, at Holy Rosary Academy.