New superintendent of Catholic education to begin July 1

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Kurt Nelson, president of Aquinas Catholic Schools in LaCrosse, Wis., is the new superintendent of Catholic Education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson made the announcement March 12.

Nelson, who will begin his new duties July 1, has led a system of six schools, 150 employees and more than 1,100 students since 2006. The middle school and high school in the Aquinas system have been designated as National Blue Ribbon Schools during his tenure, among other honors for the system. Improvements were made in enrollment and school finances.

The new superintendent, whose undergraduate degree in education is from the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that Catholic education continues to be the fullest and most effective means to accomplish the evangelizing mission of the Church.

"I see the school and evangelizing as passing on the faith, a deeper understanding of the faith and practice of the faith," Nelson said. "To me, that doesn't just mean it's focused on religion classes. That's one of the great things about Catholic education, that it teaches kids how faith informs their understanding of science, history, social studies and all these areas. ... It's wrapped in the totality of being a believer of Jesus Christ and how it informs how we understand, look at and respond to the world."

Archbishop Carlson, in a statement about the appointment, noted that Nelson puts a priority on strong Catholic identity, academic excellence, special learning needs, and marketing and enrollment management, which will directly support the archdiocese's "Alive in Christ" Mission Advancement Initiative.

Nelson said St. Louis not only has a strong history of Catholic education but also has a strong passion for it. "My role is to reinforce those things we are doing well and use those as examples as well as look at what is going on in other places to find out what seems to be most effective." he said.

Nelson, 45, also has been a teacher and principal at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla., and was director of educational programming and an instructor at the Wildwood Outdoor Education Center in La Cygne, Kan., where among other tasks he supervised and evaluated staff in teaching assignments and developed curriculum and program resources as well as taught natural science classes. He taught science, math and art to sixth- to eighth-grade students in Tulsa.

He has a doctorate degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in a Catholic educational leadership and policy studies program that prepares future diocesan school leaders.

From 1985 to 2005, Nelson served as a high school football official. His father, Mike Nelson, retired earlier this year as defensive line coach of the University of North Texas football team and had coached earlier at a number of schools, including the University of Missouri, and in the Canadian Football League. The new superintendent spent his last two years of high school in Columbia.

Among his service efforts in the community, Nelson led a "Cinema in the City" film series and served on the board of Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Oklahoma. As a college student he was involved with the Mizzou YMCA/YWCA and Student Association Senate. He and his wife, Joann, have five children and are members of St. Patrick Parish in Onalaska, Wis.

Archbishop Carlson thanked retiring superintendent George Henry for his service to the archdiocese. "His tenure as superintendent of Catholic education will have a lasting impact on our Catholic schools and parish programs, and I am extremely grateful for his dedicated ministry to our local Church," the archbishop said. 

Kurt Nelson

• President of Aquinas Catholic Schools in LaCrosse, Wis., since 2006

• Previously a teacher and principal in the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla., and director of educational programming and an instructor at Wildwood Outdoor Education Center in Kansas

• Professional and community involvement includes: National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), National Middle School Association (NMSA), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and Knights of Columbus

• Doctorate degree from The Catholic University of America in Catholic Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Oklahoma State University; bachelor's degree in education as an honors scholar from University of Missouri.

• Certifications as a preK-12 principal, 7-12 social studies, 7-12 science and 6-8 mathematics teacher. 

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