As the new school year begins this month, eight Catholic grade schools in various areas of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are counting on new principals to lead the way into the future.
Brandi Borries, superintendent of Catholic Schools, has been meeting and speaking to these principals and says she is excited to see the direction they will be taking both students and staff members. “We are blessed with an enthusiastic group of new administrators who answered the call to be a part of Catholic education in our diocese,” Borries said. “They bring a wealth of great experience to our schools and I am very much looking forward to working with them.”
Let’s take a look at our new principals and see what they have to say about their lives and how they hope to make an impact on their students and staffs.
Pierre N. Antoine
St. Louis Catholic School, Nokomis
Pierre N. “Nic” Antoine is the new principal of St. Louis Catholic School in Nokomis, where he is leading a staff of 12 as well as 75 students in grades PreK-8. He has a master’s degree in education from William Woods University and has been a Catholic school principal in four different states, both rural and urban. He also assisted in implementing the School Choice program in Racine, Wis. A member of St. Ann Parish in Nashville, Ill., he has been married to his wife Dana for 26 years. “My goal is to get myself and all those around me to heaven,” he says. “Being a Catholic school administrator allows me to be the servant leader of Christ.”
St. Ambrose Catholic School, Godfrey
Robert Baird, the new principal of St. Ambrose Catholic School in Godfrey, is leading 25 staff members and 230 students in grades PreK-8. He has master’s degree in educational administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Most recently, Baird has been assistant principal at Marquette Catholic High School, from 2012 to June 2020. He was also principal at Little Flower Catholic School in Richmond Heights, Mo., from 2009 to 2012, and a teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic School from 2004 to 2009. A member of St. Ambrose Parish, he and his wife Jennifer have been married for 11 years and have a son Elijah, who is in first grade at St. Ambrose. “The environment in our Catholic schools is different and more conducive to learning,” Baird says. “As Catholic schools we strive to foster and create a family atmosphere within our schools. This type of environment is welcoming and allows most individuals — students and staff — to find acceptance and feel they are truly a part of that school community.”
Ss. Peter and Paul School, Collinsville
Julie Buehler is well acquainted with Ss. Peter and Paul School in Collinsville, where she has just begun leading 150 students in grades PreK-8 as well as 17 staff members. For the last 20 years, Buehler has been the fifth-grade teacher at Ss. Peter and Paul. She also taught in the Francis Howell School District in Missouri for five years. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and is a member of St. Mary Parish in Trenton. Buehler has been married to her husband, Chuck, for 32 years. They have two grown sons, Andrew and Nicholas. “Ss. Peter and Paul School is a family and I have grown to love all the students, families and teachers,” she says. “It is an awesome responsibility to guide them in their Catholic faith.”
St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School, Jerseyville
Dennis Cramsey is the new principal at St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School in Jerseyville, where he leads a staff of 25 as well as 300 students in grades K-8. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeast Missouri State (Truman State), and later went on to study at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he earned his master’s and specialist’s degrees, and in 2014, his doctorate. Cramsey has been in public education for 32 years, as a teacher in the Bethalto School District and later as an administrator in Edwardsville. A member of St. Francis/Holy Ghost Parish, he has been married to his wife Ginger for 34 years. They have three sons and four grandchildren. “I am excited to continue to do what God has intended for me to do in a Christ-centered environment,” he says.
Our Lady Queen of Peace School, Bethalto
Steve Menke is familiar with Our Lady Queen of Peace School in Bethalto, where he is leading 20 staff members and 110 students in grades PreK-8. He has a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and a master’s from Grand Canyon University. Menke has spent many years at St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School in Jerseyville, teaching seventh- and eighth-grade history and religion for 19 years before spending two years there as principal. A member of St. Mary Parish in Alton, he has been married for 22 years to his wife Kim. Their children are Brennan, who is attending SIUE and Noah, who is in the seventh grade at St. Mary School in Alton. “As a former student of Our Lady Queen of Peace, I am excited to come home where my education started,” Menke says. “I will also be able to spend more time with my parents, who are still very active in the parish. I am honored to be able to work in a place that allows me to use my faith as I help others to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.”
St. Anthony Grade School, Effingham
Cody Rincker has been named the new principal of St. Anthony Grade School in Effingham. Most recently the health and physical education teacher at that school, he brings nine years of experience in education, along with a background in coaching. He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education/teacher education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, his master’s in education leadership from American College of Education, and his master’s in physical education and coaching from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. In his transition to grade school principal, he will continue in his role as boys varsity basketball coach for St. Anthony High School. He is originally from Strasburg, while his wife Nicole is originally from Effingham. They live in Effingham with their three children, Grant, James, and Logan. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be the principal at St. Anthony Grade School,” says Rincker. “I look forward to the challenge and to continue working with a great staff and parish community.”
Sacred Heart School, Effingham
The new principal of Sacred Heart School in Effingham is Angela Sheehan. She is now leading a staff of 18 as well as 219 students in grades PreK-8. Sheehan has a master’s in elementary education and an administrative certification from Eastern Illinois University. Her background is with Teutopolis Unit 50 as a classroom teacher for 16 years and 17 years in administration. She has spent the last 10 years at principal at Teutopolis Elementary. A member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Teutopolis, she is married to Timothy and they have two sons, Marcus and Ross. “I look forward to simultaneously inspiring a love for Christ and a love for learning in the minds and hearts of the Sacred Heart students,” she says.
St. Paul Catholic School, Highland
As the new principal, Haidee Todora is happy to be leading the 20 staff members and 210 students who are in grades PreK3-8 at St. Paul Catholic School in Highland. She has a post-graduate certification from the University of Dallas in Catholic education leadership and a master’s degree in kinesiology from Lamar University. Todora was previously director of Rochester Catholic schools for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, and principal of St. Catherine of Siena School in Port Arthur in the Diocese of Beaumont Texas. She has been a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Port Arthur and is a member of St. Paul Parish in Highland. She is married to Ray and they have a son, Collin. “My calling is to be an instrument in building disciples of Christ,” she says.