By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 5, 2010
Charles Martin, the new principal at St. Joseph School, Athens, brings with him an enthusiasm for Catholic education and a desire to be a part of the community.
Martin, who goes by C.J. for Charles Jones, is heading up the elementary school. But he said he wants to be known for more than being the school principal and be part of the life of the parish of St. Joseph, too.
There’s a lot of tradition and many families to get to know, he said.
Martin is leaving St. Joseph School in Nashville, Tenn., where he has been for the past five years. Most recently he taught middle school social studies. He has worn a lot of hats: athletic director, football and golf coach, the assistant principal.
This month he becomes the leader of the 300-student, kindergarten through eighth-grade school. The downtown Athens school was founded in 1949, when 35 students met in the bottom floor of the parish rectory. In 2007, the Archdiocese of Atlanta and St. Joseph Church purchased 30 acres on Epps Bridge Parkway on the Clarke/Oconee county line as part of a parish expansion project, including a future new school.
Martin succeeds Donavan Yarnall, who served as principal for three years.
“I believe I’ll have a little bit of butterflies, but I think it’s a good thing because it’s exciting, not because I’m nervous,” he said about the upcoming first day of school, Aug. 9.
Martin, who is 28, grew up in Ohio and attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school. He attended Ohio University where he studied U.S. history. His father was a Catholic school administrator.
Catholic schools allow teachers to “talk about and model the teachings of Christ and the Gospels,” he said. “It’s always been something I wanted to be a part of.”
Martin said one of the gifts he brings to his position is an interest in getting out from behind his desk.
“I have an energy and enthusiasm for working with the students,” he said, adding he has a strong sense of Catholic identity and knows how important that is for a Catholic school.
He said he looks forward to working with the school staff.
“The faculty is so experienced and has a high level of education. I wanted the opportunity to come and work with them,” he said.
In fact, this summer Martin spent six weeks at Notre Dame University as part of its accelerated master’s degree program for Catholic school administrators. Leaders learn about a range of school-related issues, from finance and Catholic leadership to human resource management at the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program in the Alliance for Catholic Education. The program takes three summers to complete and Martin has one more summer session to attend.
Martin and his dog Diesel, a Labrador retriever/border collie mix, finished his move to Athens in late July. (Diesel has been known to show up for school field days on occasion.)
At his last school, Martin was one of two men on the faculty. While it is important for everyone involved with schools to be role models of Catholic values, Martin said he tries to take a public role at school events to be visible to students so they see a male figure among the faculty.
Martin said his age should not be a deterrent for parents. Rather, he wants them to see his support for and encouragement of Catholic education.
“My enthusiasm and energy for Catholic education isn’t something that is measured in the number of years I’ve been a teacher, but in my lifelong dedication to the students and the vocation of Catholic education,” he said.
St. Joseph School is located at 134 Prince Ave., Athens, and the number for the school office is (706) 543-1621. For more information, visit the school website at www.sjsathens.org.