July 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Catholic education is embedded in Kristen Kiernan’s upbringing and professional life.She has been a Catholic school student, teacher and assistant principal and earned her master’s degree from the Curran Principal Academy at St. John’s University.
Kiernan will bring her experience and knowledge of Catholic education to Holy Savior Academy as its new principal. She began her new position July 1. She replaced Melinda Hanlon as the head of the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Catholic school in South Plainfield. Hanlon left Holy Savior Academy after three years as principal to assume an administrative position at the high school level.
Colleen M. Gallagher, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, expressed the delight of the school community in welcoming the new principal. “Kristen is a warm and engaging leader who brings a wealth of creativity and dedication to her new role.”
“I absolutely love Catholic education,” said Kiernan. “Students respect and care for each other. Everyone cares for the wellbeing of one another and that’s a great environment for kids to learn and grow in. It boosts their morale. “
But Kiernan also understands the challenges Catholic schools face. She said she will work with families, staff, and the board of trustees to increase the profile and prominence of the school in the region.
One of her responsibilities as assistant principal at St. Brigid School in New York was to develop marketing strategies to promote the school. She said enrollment increased from 207 to about 232 students in the year she was at the school.
“I’d like to ensure that every student and every family knows they are a part of Holy Savior Academy,’’ she said. “We’re a family and a community.”
Kiernan plans to develop Holy Savior Academy into a Blue-Ribbon School. The accreditation program, created in 1982 and run by the federal Department of Education, recognizes schools “where students perform at very high levels or where students are making significant gains in academic achievement,” according to its website. A school must be established for a minimum of five years before applying.
Kiernan’s most recent position as the director of the Huntington Learning Center on Staten Island allowed her to learn about the business of education. But she also realized that she longed to return to Catholic education.
She taught theology at Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island for four years. She then served as assistant principal at St. Brigid School in New York, earned her master’s degree from the Curran Principal Academy at St. John’s University. She is a graduate of Notre Dame Academy, an all-girls prekindergarten-12th grade Catholic school on Staten Island.