The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

New Catholic principals leading schools in five cities

Leaders say they're dedicated to educating and growing the spirituality of students

Published: August 19, 2017   
Aprille Hanson
New principals meeting in a workshop for Catholic school principals July 18 in Little Rock are (from left) Courtney Pope, Paul Guild, Rebecca Kaelin, Jeff Plake, Alice Stautzenberger and Mary Kay Jones.

Courtney Pope

St. Joseph Elementary, Conway

Hometown: Bigelow

Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education, University of Central Arkansas; master’s degree in reading; educational specialist

Educational experience: Mayflower Elementary, one year; Ida Burns Elementary, Conway, four years; St. Joseph Elementary, 10 years

Educational philosophy: I believe in educating the whole child socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Benefits of Catholic education: The benefits are eternal. A Catholic education gives kids the best foundation for life.

Favorite saint: Mary, as a mother and educator I have always loved to pray to Mary for intervention for my children, family and my students.

Hobbies: Reading, watching my kids play sports, dance, etc.


Jeff Plake

Christ the King, Fort Smith

Hometown: St Louis area

Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology education, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau; master’s degree in school administration, William Woods University; educational specialist, Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Mo.

Educational experience: Sullivan High School, Sullivan Mo., five years, science teacher, football, track and field coach; Climax Springs School District 7-12 principal, three years; Lebanon High School 9-12 assistant principal, five years; Laclede County C-5 school district superintendent, three years; Lebanon High School, science teacher, football, track and field and swimming coach, six years; Trinity Junior High School, Fort Smith, one year.

Benefits of Catholic education: Family-oriented values, collective mission for success, safety of student and faculty

Favorite Scripture: Psalms 121

Hobbies: swimming, weight lifting, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing and family


Rebecca Kaelin

St. Boniface, Fort Smith

Hometown: Middletown, Md.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in middle level education, University of Arkansas Fort Smith; currently working on master’s degree in Catholic school leadership through St. Louis University

Educational experience: St. Boniface School, nine years, teacher

Educational philosophy: I believe all children have the ability to learn in the right environment. When we practice the foundations of God’s teachings: to love one another and to treat everyone with respect we are setting children up to succeed. When kids feel safe and feel engaged, they thrive in the classroom.

Benefits of Catholic education: God is the greatest example on how to live our lives. We have the benefit of not only getting to speak about God’s life and love but also receive Communion with our students. To be present with them during the Eucharist.

Favorite saint: My favorite saint is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She has guided me throughout my life and has given me strength when I was weak.

Hobbies: I love to spend time with my family. I also enjoy reading and being active outdoors.


Paul Guild

St. John, Hot Springs

Hometown: Seminole, Fla.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in theology, Franciscan University; master’s degree in educational administration, University of Dayton

Educational experience: 30 years in Catholic education as a high school teacher and high school and K-8 principal

Educational philosophy: It is a privilege to support parents in their role as the primary educators of their children.

Benefits of Catholic education: Our Catholic faith permeates everything we do and it guides us in the formation of the whole person.

Favorite Scripture: Ephesians 3:20

Hobbies: Working in my yard


Mary Kay Jones

Blessed Sacrament, Jonesboro

Hometown: St. Louis

Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, St. Louis University; currently working on master’s degree in Catholic school leadership through St. Louis University

Educational experience: Blessed Sacrament School, media specialist, one year

Educational philosophy: I am blessed to be a part of this ministry. From my Catholic upbringing, my 16 years of Catholic school education and a collective 32 years of Catholic education for my children, I know it is transformative. This comes from the fundamental approach of Cura Personalis, care for the whole person, body, mind, heart and spirit. You cannot truly reach a child and prepare them for the next phase of their world if you selectively choose only one aspect. 

Favorite saint: St. Francis of Assisi


Alice Stautzenberger

St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers

Hometown: Rogers

Education: Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Louisiana Tech University; teacher certification, Louisiana State University-Shreveport; master’s degree in education, Southeastern Louisiana University

Educational Experience: St. Vincent de Paul School, Rogers, librarian, 17 years; Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, La., study skills and library science instructor, one year; William Pitcher Jr. High School, Covington, La., special education, one year; Capt. Shreve High School, Shreveport, La., special education, six years

Educational philosophy: I believe that as educators we should provide a safe, caring atmosphere in which each child can develop intellectually, emotionally and socially into productive citizens and lifelong learners.

Benefits of Catholic education: The benefits are that we can focus on the whole child in mind, body and soul.

Favorite saint: St. Teresa of Kolkata

Hobbies: Reading, spending time with family


Please read our Comments Policy before posting.

Article comments powered by Disqus