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After a nationwide search, St. Joseph’s Catholic School has named its new principal: Jackie Kirkham.

Kirkham replaces her husband, Greg Kirkham, who will be retiring as of the start of the 2016-17 school year. Greg Kirkham acted as principal for the previous eight years, overseeing numerous changes including the school’s move in the fall of 2015 to the property adjacent to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.


Jackie Kirkham comes directly from Big Park Community School in the Village of Oak Creek, where she taught for 16 years. A 27-year veteran educator, she said that the selection process for her husband’s soon-to-be-vacated position was rigorous, overseen by an eight-person selection committee headed by the assistant superintendent of instruction for the Diocese of Phoenix.

“We wanted the best fit for the school, regardless of who it might be,” Kirkham said, adding that she has benefited from her indirect involvement with the school through her husband for the past eight years. “It’s a very positive thing .... My goal is to make sure there’s a smooth transition — to continue upon the successes.”

Jill Barteau, recently promoted to the position of preschool director after 10 years teaching at St. Joseph’s, admitted that some might be skeptical of the school hiring the wife of the previous principal, but insisted any such fear would be unjustified. “It was just like any other interview process. Everybody went through the process the same way.”

In addition, Barteau clarified, the four final candidates were not selected from within St. Joseph’s; instead, they were chosen by the assistant superintendent of instruction for the Diocese of Phoenix. Greg Kirkham was left out of the selection process. Barteau and the other selection committee were required to sign letters of confidentiality.

“I had no idea until we got the phone call,” Greg Kirkham said, adding that he and Jackie had prayed over the decision and come to terms with another person being selected. If the committee decided someone else was more qualified, then it would be for the school’s benefit.

“I’m very humbled,” Jackie Kirkham said, adding that she is excited to begin incorporating the best of two worlds — teaching and her religion. Prior to this appointment, she had not taught a faith-based curriculum. “It’s a very unique opportunity for me.”

According to Greg Kirkham, the choice to retire was informed by medical conditions.

“I’ve completed 35 years in education, and I decided to retire and heal up,” he said. “This is such an incredible way to end my career, combining education and faith .... St. Joseph’s is really a school of passion.”

Barteau encouraged parents to sign their children up for the preschool program soon, as it is filling up quickly and allows students to enter kindergarten classes that may otherwise be inaccessible because of demand. Currently, there are approximately 35 children registered in the two classes: One for preschool children age three, and another for pre-kindergarten students ages 4 and 5.

According to the Kirkhams, the 2016-17 school year stands at nearly 200 registered students, the vast majority of which reside in Cottonwood. A significant minority, however, come from Sedona. The remainder of a dozen or so students come from surrounding areas. As a result, St. Joseph’s picks up and drops off students at locations in Cornville, Sedona and the VOC.

Greg Kirkham praised the school’s numerous volunteers and the governing board, whose combined efforts helped raise $480,000 for the school in 2015-16.

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