Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Founders of two Atlanta area Catholic schools announce retirements

Published February 21, 2019

ATLANTA—Debra Orr, who started Notre Dame Academy, Duluth, and Deacon Bill Garrett, who helped Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School get off the ground, both will be leaving their positions.

Orr, the head of school, will step down at the end of the school year as members of the first graduating class of Notre Dame High School receive their diploma. Deacon Garrett, the school president, plans a gradual move toward retirement, with an exit date of 2020.

Both schools are independent Catholic schools, outside of the Archdiocese of Atlanta school system.

Schools Superintendent Diane Starkovich, Ph.D., however, has seen the two schools grow as they serve students and parents. Together, they enroll more than 1,000 families who desire Catholic education, she said.

“Catholic educators, particularly administrators, share a special passion and mission for Catholic education. There is no greater success as a Catholic educator than to witness students achieve academic success while at the same time growing stronger in their faith,” said Starkovich in an email. “I wish them both a happy and enjoyable retirement and many mornings with no alarm clock going off.”

Orr: motivated by love of Catholic education

Debra Orr

Orr was spurred to open Notre Dame Academy when her son could not get a seat in a Catholic grade school because it was filled to capacity. Providing a Catholic education was a priority for the social studies teacher who taught for many years at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta. Orr also served as an administrator at Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, and Pinecrest Academy, Cumming.

About her retirement from Notre Dame Academy, Orr said in a news release, “As with all things in life, there is a time and a season. My time at Notre Dame is complete. With our first class graduating from high school, I feel my work is done.”

Notre Dame Academy Board of Trustees announced Jenni Ellis will become head of school on July 1. Ellis comes with a resume filled with Catholic education experience. Ellis was assistant principal and director of student activities at Marist School and served as assistant principal at Blessed Trinity High School.

Deacon Garrett: Recruited new students

Bill Garrett

Deacon Garrett started as the public face of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School in 2013. He spoke at scores of Atlanta parishes to recruit students, and businesses leaders to sponsor students, in the unique work study program. He helped oversee the construction of the first Catholic school in downtown Atlanta in nearly 50 years. The campus is now home to some 535 students.

“While I look forward to the next chapter in my life, my heart will always be with Cristo Rey,” he said in his resignation letter.  “Forever I will be a champion of the students, faculty, staff and school.”

Cristo Rey school leaders are recruiting for a new president.