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5 Schools get new principals

Some are switching schools, some are moving up

Jennifer Nicholson: Annunciation, West Park

Jennifer Nicholson is taking over as principal of Annunciation School in West Park.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Jennifer Nicholson is taking over as principal of Annunciation School in West Park.

Nicholson is stepping into the role of principal at a place she considers home: She was married at Annunciation Church in 2002, and in 2011 her twins started school there. She feels this connection gives her a unique perspective as an administrator, parent, and parishioner.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Nicholson earned a bachelor’s degree in movement science with an internship in physical education for grades K-9. While at Westfield State, she also minored in political science. After graduating in 1995 and receiving her educator certification, she taught in the public-school system in the Berkshires for four years. She moved to Miami in 1999 and substituted in Kendall for a few months until a job opened up at Annunciation School in West Park.

That’s where her association with Catholic schools began, as her family was never able to afford a private education. She considers it an honor to teach in a setting where it is acceptable to talk about God and celebrate Catholic traditions.

She also was fortunate to be mentored by Annunciation’s longtime principal, Sister Josephine Sherry, and Sister Pauline O’Connor, both Irish Sisters of Mercy. They taught Nicholson that serving God through education is a gift. The experience left a lasting mark and inspired a dedication to keep their mission going.

In 2009, Nicholson became the assistant principal at Annunciation, a position she held until her appointment as principal. In 2015, she obtained her master’s degree in educational leadership from American College of Education.

Alexandra Fernandez: Mary Help of Christians, Parkland

Alexandra Fernandez is taking over as principal of Mary Help of Christians School in Parkland.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Alexandra Fernandez is taking over as principal of Mary Help of Christians School in Parkland.

For the past 18 years, Fernandez has served in a variety of teaching and leadership roles, most recently as principal of Annunciation School in West Park for seven years. She has a doctorate of education in leadership, a master’s in educational leadership, and a bachelor’s in secondary English education. She also holds Professional Certification and Clinical Educator Certification in the State of Florida.

She currently serves on the Principal’s Advisory Committee for the Office of Catholic Schools as well as Visitation Team Chairperson for the Florida Catholic Conference Accreditation Program. She also served as a member of the Catholic Education Focus Team for the archdiocese’s Second General Synod and created and facilitated a Principal’s Professional Learning Community for elementary principals in the Archdiocese of Miami.

She and her husband of 28 years are the proud parents of twin daughters who attended K-12 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Miami and who currently attend the University of Notre Dame.

Lisa Kempinski: St. Bonaventure, Davie

Lisa Kempinski is taking over as principal of St. Bonaventure School in Davie.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Lisa Kempinski is taking over as principal of St. Bonaventure School in Davie.

Kempinski has served in education in the archdiocese for 13 years: first as a junior high school mathematics teacher and then as an assistant principal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Miami, a master’s degree in education technology from Florida Atlantic University, and an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Barry University.

A native of South Florida, Kempinski attended St. Andrew School in Coral Springs and graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. She and her husband of eight years have a 3-year-old son who is beginning his first year of preschool at St. Bonaventure.

Her vision for the school is to continue to build on its reputation of excellence, to challenge the students to expand their knowledge, to think critically and creatively, to collaborate, to experiment, and even to fantastically fail.

She is asking her students this year to “Dream Big, Pray Often,” in keeping with the words of Pope Francis: “Dear young people, do not bury your talents God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things.”

Stephanie Tascillo: St. Helen, Fort Lauderdale

Stephanie Trascillo is taking over as principal of St. Helen School in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Stephanie Trascillo is taking over as principal of St. Helen School in Fort Lauderdale.

While Tascillo is the new principal at St. Helen, she is not new to the school, having served as assistant principal last year and director of curriculum and instruction before that. She has been in education for 12 years, working as a classroom teacher in all grades Kindergarten through eighth and in a variety of schools including public, charter and private.

She holds associate degrees in psychology and child development, a bachelor’s degree in psychology specializing in child and adolescent behaviors, and a master's degree from Nova Southeastern University in educational leadership, as well as multiple state certifications.

Stephen Brown: St. Rose of Lima, Miami Shores

Brown is a product of Catholic education and has been a teacher and administrator with the Archdiocese of Miami for 18 years, serving the past seven as principal of Mary Help of Christians School in Parkland.

Stephen Brown is taking over as principal of St. Rose of Lima School in Miami Shores.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Stephen Brown is taking over as principal of St. Rose of Lima School in Miami Shores.

He began his career as the band and choral director at Msgr. Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, where he developed a state-recognized marching band program. Four years later, he moved to Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, where he established the Fine Arts Department, ultimately traveling with groups to Carnegie Hall and the Vatican.

He later served at Archbishop McCarthy High as executive director of development, supervising fundraising and construction of a $3 million, 30,000 sq. ft Student and Performing Arts Center, a $1.5 million Fitness Center, and the refurbishing of the school’s track and field.

Over the past seven years at Mary Help of Christians, he oversaw an enrollment increase of over 15 percent. The school received countless state and national academic accolades and developed a specialized ESE (exceptional student education) program. He also continued to expand the campus, breaking ground earlier this year for a 13,000 sq. ft. Parish and Student Center.

A frequent speaker at national conferences, Brown serves as chairperson for the School Accreditation Review Team of the Florida Catholic Conference. He also received the National Catholic Education Association’s 2017 “Lead. Learn. Proclaim.” award.

Brown has a bachelor’s in fine arts, a master’s in educational leadership and a doctorate in education and leadership with a concentration in higher education administration. He has been married for 16 years, has three children and is a parishioner at Nativity in Hollywood.

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