Chenevert & Coleman

CET: Catholic Schools Welcome New Principals

St. Gregory Cathedral School in Tyler and St. Patrick Catholic School in Lufkin have announced the hiring of new principals.

Becky Chenevert is the new principal of St. Gregory Cathedral School in Tyler, and Martha López Coleman has been hired to lead St. Patrick in Lufkin.

Chenevert comes to St. Gregory with 29 years of experience in elementary education and has served the past 24 years as a principal. She is currently principal of Wise Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School in Chapel Hill ISD.

“I am overwhelmed with joy and so excited at this new opportunity and challenge,” said Chenevert, who will take up her duties as principal in June. “After many years in educational administration, I can’t think of a better place to serve than St. Gregory. It will be a special privilege and blessing to work with the outstanding faculty at St. Gregory to provide our students with academic excellence, Christian formation and a disciplined environment.”

Chenevert earned her undergraduate degree and teacher certification from the University of Texas at Arlington. She holds a master’s degree and mid-management administrator certification from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. She also has completed work at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

“St. Gregory and the cathedral community are thrilled to welcome Becky as our new principal,” said Father Lanik. “Her experience, her commitment to providing the best for our students and her faith in Jesus Christ all demonstrated that Becky is the right person to help St. Gregory remain the best educational choice in Tyler.”

Before coming to St. Gregory, Chenevert served as principal at St. Mary Catholic School in Longview, Pine Tree Elementary School and Harleton Elementary. Earlier this year, she was nominated for the National Distinguished Principals Program.

She and her husband Steve are cathedral parishioners. She replaces Kathy Shieldes Harry, who is retiring at the end of this school year after 24 years as principal.

St. Gregory is Tyler’s oldest private, Christian elementary school. It has been recognized three times as a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.

Coleman is an alumna of St. Patrick, having attended first in kindergarten, and then in grades 2-6, before the program expanded to grade 8.

“I remember how important the education I got at St. Patrick was,” Coleman said. “At that time, the 1980s, in Lufkin, if you were Hispanic, you went to one school and were taught in Spanish. My parents wanted me to learn and be proficient in English, so they sent me to St. Patrick’s, which was an English-only program. It wasn’t ESL, but total immersion. I not only learned to speak English well, but to read and write it.

“I can’t express how important that was,” Coleman said. “I honestly don’t believe that I’d have two master’s degrees and be enrolled in a doctoral program without the education I received at St. Patrick’s.”

Now, as principal, she will be able to pass that legacy onto other students.

“I want to continue that tradition,” she said. “I believe in St. Patrick, and I want to give back for what it gave me. I want to continue that tradition of excellence and also of faith. I want to help these children reach their potential academically, but also understand their worth and value as children of God.”

“We’re very blessed to have Martha as our new principal,” said Father Gavin Vaverek, pastor of St. Patrick Church. “She is an alum of the school and understands how important the program is.

“And she inherits the school at a very good place,” Father Vaverek added. “Father Francis O’Dowd (previous pastor) and Jim Menz (previous principal) did outstanding work in building up the program and providing solid financial stability.”

Coleman and husband Ray have a daughter, Audrey, 5. They are parishioners at St. Patrick Church.

Previous to taking the job at St. Patrick, she worked as a classroom teacher for four years and a school librarian for five.

She has two master’s degrees, one in library and information services and another in education and curriculum, and is currently working on a doctorate in educational leadership at Stephen F. Austin State University.

St. Patrick is celebrating its 68th year of providing quality Catholic education in Lufkin.

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