Holy Family School will begin their next school year under new leadership as the school recently announced the hiring of a new principal and assistant principal.
The Port Allen-based Catholic school brings aboard an administrative core with familiarities to West Baton Rouge, as well as a well-spring of public and private school experience.
Michael Comeau was named the school’s new principal, replacing Brenda Fremin.
Comeau, who has worked as a teacher, coach and administrator for 20 years from the elementary school to college levels, said that he is excited to lead Holy Family and hopes to help move the school forward.
“I’m excited! It’s going to be an exciting and fun year,” said Comeau. “I think it’s important that we remain a huge part of the community, and as the community grows and flourishes, the school grows and flourishes with the community.”
Comeau, 43, began his teaching career in a Florida high school and moved to Louisiana after receiving his Master’s Degree from Northwestern State in Natchitoches. He coached soccer at Centenary College before becoming an administrator in the Baton Rouge school system. From 2006-2011, Comeau taught and coached in West Baton Rouge, teaching at Cohn Elementary School and helping to coach football at Port Allen High School.
He was the assistant principal at Valverda Elementary School and assistant football coach at Livonia High School the past two years.
“I have a familiarity with the community, having worked in West Baton Rouge Parish,” Comeau said. “I’ve been in public schools for 20 years, and I have a huge variety of experiences, from coaching and teaching in high school to coaching at the college level to teaching third and fourth grade at the elementary level and running two different pre-k through fifth grade schools.”
Comeau will be supported by new assistant principal, Sheila Barton, who has more than 40 years of teaching and administrative experience in public, private and parochial schools throughout the Baton Rouge area.
Barton, 67, said that she decided to come out of her five-year retirement to help move the school forward after being asked by Holy Family Priest, Father David Allen.
“Father David is a very good friend of mine. I adore him and think so highly of him, and knew that this was a calling. I felt like this is where I should be at this point in my life, and I’m excited about being here,” Barton said. “I’m excited about all the things that are going to be happening. There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got happening.”
Barton worked as a teacher for 21 years before becoming an administrator. She had stints as principal at an EBR private school for special needs students (six years), St. Jude in Baton Rouge (1 1/2 years as interim) and Sacred Heart (three years before retiring).
“It was a big decision to come out of retirement and do this, but this is something I believe in. I love education. I feel like Holy Family is a holy family and I’m proud to be a part of it,” she said. “I think that Michael (Comeau) and I, together, will be a good contribution to this community and to this parish.”
Barton said that changes have already begun throughout the school, as new textbooks have been ordered and walls are currently being painted.
Annette Fitzgerald, advancement director and public relations for HFS, said that the administration is focused on making improvements to the school in nearly every aspect.
“We just purchased an additional $25,000 in technology; and that ranges anywhere from new computers to iPads, Nexus tablets to Prometheus boards,” said Fitzgerald adding that the school also upgraded their telephone system, which will allow each teacher to have a voicemail box, which is something they didn’t have prior to this year.
She said that the school is improving classrooms with paint and floor treatments as well as new textbooks.
Fitzgerald said that the school is also overhauling their security, as wrought iron fences will stand around the backend of the school.
“We’re going to implement our staff to having two-way radios for security and communication purposes,” she said. “That’s a big deal for our community too, to keep the kids safe here.”
Fitzgerald also announced that the school will have a new guidance councilor on staff – Alise Alford, of Plaquemine.
“I think we’ve got a great faculty. We’ve got a great group of teachers and support staff and we’re going to keep moving forward as a team,” Comeau said. “I think Catholic schools are the jewels of the American education system … I just want to continue to offer a sound curriculum and good solid programming and making sure the community knows they’re a part of the school and parents are involved.”
Barton agreed, saying the Holy Family School team will assuredly have many successful years together.
“We are all a team – together, the parents with the teachers and our administration – with the same goal in mind: making the best future leaders of Port Allen and our state, and of the country,” Barton said. “It’s important that we build character and our Catholic value system.”
Comeau said that though most of his work experience has been in the public school realm, his experiences, along with Barton’s, will help them achieve their goal of making Holy Family the most successful school it has ever been.
“I really am honored that Sheila’s with me. I have 20 years in public schools, she’s got a variety of experiences in Catholic schools, so her and I, together, are going to be a great team,” he said.
Barton agreed, adding that she understands that some may be wary of so many changes so quickly, but said that the excitement in the air at Holy Family School is thick and expectations are high to see growth and success in every area of the school.
“I think we’re all excited. Change can be really good. Change can be really difficult for any community, but I think it’s going to be positive, and we’re just looking forward to a great year,” Barton said.