By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published May 28, 2020
ATLANTA—A school president and three principals are saying goodbye to students, faculty and staff as they close their final administration years in Atlanta Catholic schools.
Karen Vogtner, long time principal of St. John the Evangelist School in Hapeville; Deacon Bill Garrett and Dr. Diane Bush, president and principal of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School respectively, will retire this summer.
Melissa Reder, principal of St. Mary School in Rome will finish the current school year before she prepares for a new position in Iowa. Steve Spellman, principal of St. Pius X High School in Atlanta will retire after the fall semester.
Vogtner is the longest serving principal in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, serving the Hapeville school community for 32 years. She began as a technology, resource and enrichment teacher. In addition to these responsibilities, she became assistant principal in 1990. She has been the school principal since 1998.
There is a spirit of joy at St. John the Evangelist that comes from putting Jesus in the center of all we do, said Vogtner.
“I will miss the joyful faces of our students, the laughter and camaraderie of our admin team, the care and love the teachers pour out to their students to nurture the whole child—body, mind and soul.”
Vogtner was named the 2010 Atlanta Archdiocese Principal of the Year at the annual Education Banquet. That same year, the Hapeville school was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Vogtner was principal when the school won the award again in 2017.
Alumni, parents, students and teachers gathered for a parade to wish Vogtner well in her retirement on May 8. The parade was led by local firefighters and police. Members of the school community decorated their cars with signs and balloons. Alan Hallman, mayor of Hapeville, officially declared the day for the principal in honor of her decades of service.
“Mrs. Vogtner embodies the heart of servant leadership and has dedicated her life to the mission of Catholic education,” said Bernadette Boisis, who will serve as the school’s principal beginning this summer. “She has lovingly nurtured countless students, teachers, parents and colleagues, while instilling the Catholic faith and traditions. She fosters a sense of family and ceaselessly communicates the importance of keeping Christ in the center of all that we do. Her legacy will live on for generations to come, and her loving spirit will be missed dearly.”
Retirement plans include spending more time with grandchildren, consulting work in Catholic education and visiting the Holy Land and Italy when safe to travel.
She also looks forward to the leadership of Boisis.
“Working together with an extraordinary faculty and staff, dedicated and supportive parents, and outstanding, faith-filled students, I am excited to see where she leads this incredible community,” said Vogtner.
Changes at Cristo Rey
Dr. Diane Bush is a founding faculty member of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School and has served as principal since 2016. She previously taught for 12 years and worked as a pediatric physical therapist. The school has grown from more than 150 students its first year in 2014 to over 500 students this school year.
“Diane was a tremendous principal,” said Deacon Garrett. “She knew and cared deeply for each student. She worked tirelessly to achieve outstanding results. We are the best academic school in the Cristo Rey network as a direct result of her efforts.”
Deacon Garrett is the founding president of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School. In 2019, he was named the Most Admired CEO in Education by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
After serving as interim president at Cristo Rey Dallas College Preparatory School in Dallas, Texas for a few months, Deacon Garrett plans to serve the community and become involved at a parish in Hilton Head, South Carolina. A few rounds of golf are also on the deacon’s list of activities.
“Bill Garrett is passionate about providing a Jesuit college preparatory education to students who otherwise would not have access to it,” said Camille Naughton, vice president of advancement and corporate partnerships for the school. She will become the school’s president beginning this summer.
“What an honor it has been to work with him these last seven years as we built this school from the ground up. There have been some real challenges along the way, but the successes have been far greater. Through it all, Bill has been the steady hand. Without hesitation, I can say that his leadership is the reason that Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit has reached such unprecedented success in such a short amount of time,” said Naughton.
Deacon Garrett hopes Cristo Rey Atlanta will continue to thrive despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies have been impacted by the coronavirus, which affects the work-study program.
“When we built this school, our intent was to build a facility and an institution that would serve generations of students and their families,” said Deacon Garrett.