Pope John Paul II High School (Tennessee)
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (June 2007)|
|Pope John Paul II High School|
|The campus of Pope John Paul II High School, Hendersonville, TN 2013
"Faith Leads Us Beyond Ourselves"
|117 Caldwell Drive
Hendersonville, Tennessee, (Sumner County), 37075
|Religious affiliation(s)||Roman Catholic|
|Headmaster||Faustin N. Weber|
|Student to teacher ratio||12:1|
|Color(s)||Navy Blue and Gold|
|Accreditation||Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 
Southern Association of Independent Schools
|Assistant Head and Dean of Studies||Karen Phillips|
|Dean of Students||Mike McLaren|
|Athletic Director||Alan Mila|
|Director of Finance and Operations||Laura Thigpen|
|Director of Campus Ministry||Deacon Brian Edwards|
About the School
Pope John Paul II High School was founded in 2002 by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, now the retired bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo. The majority of the school's population resides in the Sumner County area, but there is a strong regional draw, with the current student body hailing from ten separate counties and forty-eight zip codes, some from as far away as Clarksville and Bowling Green. Hans Broekman was hired as the school's first headmaster in 2002. Faustin Weber followed him as the school's second headmaster in 2008.
The school is led by a Board of Trustees that governs school policy, sets annual budgets and establishes a long term vision. The Headmaster is supported by six "cabinet-level" leaders--an Assistant Head/Dean of Studies, Dean of Students, Director of Finance and Operations, Athletic Director, Director of Advancement and Admissions and Director of Campus Ministry--who together run the school's day-to-day operations.
There are just over 600 students in grades 9-12, 58% of whom are Catholic. The school employs 80 faculty and staff, with a full-time school nurse and two full-time college counselors. More on the school, in video form, can be seen here.
Pope John Paul II High School is a highly regarded prep program in the Nashville area. It is particularly known for:
a) its comprehensive, liberal arts emphasis. The school allows students to earn 32 credits prior to graduation, with 4 years of Math, Science, English, History and Theology, and 3 years of Fine Arts and Foreign Language (in Spanish, French or Latin) as its core program. Students have the ability to graduate with as many as six Math, Science or Fine Arts credits, a fourth year in a foreign language (an A.P. class) and other electives. The school has both advanced/AP tracks and college preparatory tracks and offers its students tutoring after school. It employs a rotating schedule in which students take 8 classes/semester but only five classes per day, each lasting about 70 minutes.
b) its Advanced Placement program, with classes in Art History, Calculus AB and BC, Chemistry, Studio Art Drawing and Painting, Art 2D, and Art 3D, English Literature and Composition, United States Government and Politics Comparative Government and Politics, Environmental Science, Macroeconomics, Biology, Statistics, and Photography. Students take over 500 A.P. exams each year. In 2014, they received 97 A.P Scholar awards from the College Board, including ten students who were named "National A.P. Scholars." During the last four years, 2011-2014, JPII students have earned over 370 " A.P. Scholar" awards, including 27 "National A.P. Scholars."
c) its fine arts program, with four distinct tracts in choral music, instrumental music, dramatic arts, and visual arts. Students are required to take 3 years of Fine Arts. A large number of students are chosen for the all-state choir each year.
d) its global, outward emphasis. The school motto is "Faith Leads Us Beyond Ourselves," a quote from Pope John Paul II. The school sponsors three exchange programs with Catholic schools in Hertfordshire, England, Muenster, Germany and Amiens, France and leads students on excursions to Paris, Rome and other countries when possible. In 2013, it began an "International Scholars Program," in which highly qualified students from other countries are invited to study at JPII for their high school careers, supported by host families at the school.
Mike McLaren, JPII's Dean of Students and A.P. European History teacher, describes the philosophy of JPII's academic program here.
The fine arts program is considered among the state's best, headlined by its choral program. The 140+ students involved in the choral program are divided into five "tiers" of choirs: Beginning Men, Beginning Women, Advanced Men, Advanced Women and Chamber. In state competitions, the choral program routinely places 15-18 kids on the all state team and the Chamber choir receives "superior" ratings. The instrumental music program features a "Jazz Ensemble" program in addition to string, guitar and percussion classes. The theater program produces two comprehensive productions: a dramatic production in the fall and a musical in the spring. The art program features tracks in either three-dimensional or two-dimensional works, including photography, which culminates in a spring art show.
In addition to the three year fine arts requirement for all students, the school's schedule allows artistically inclined students to take 4th, 5th and 6th classes in the arts as electives.
JPII competes at the Division II level (large school, private) in the Tennessee High School Athletic Association. It offers teams in football, volleyball, cross-country, competitive cheer-leading, golf, ice hockey, basketball, wrestling, basketball cheer-leading, lacrosse, baseball, softball, bowling, swimming, tennis, soccer and track.
Athletic facilities include two gymnasiums for basketball and volleyball, a wrestling gym, locker-rooms, 6 tennis courts, an upper and lower stadium for football, soccer and lacrosse events, a baseball and softball field and two practice fields. In 2011, through the benefaction of area businessman Jim Carell, the school's athletic facilities received a major upgrade, including the creation of lower field soccer/track stadium with lights, a turfed upper field, a new concessions/bathroom/pavilion complex, an 8-lane track and two new weight rooms.
The athletic teams are supported by an integrated, year-round weight-lifting program. Student athletes have the option to take a weight-lifting and conditioning class as one of their eight classes in each of their four years of high school.
In its short history, JPII has won six state championships: twice in Hockey (2007, 2008), Men's Bowling (2008), twice in Lacrosse (2009, 2011) and Girls' soccer (2005). Four of its students have been named Tennessee's best in their sport, including Megan Forester (soccer, 2006), Golden Tate (football, 2007), Paige Baechle (basketball, 2010) and Chelsea Gettelfinger (cheerleading, 2012). The 2005 girl's soccer team, coached by Dean of Students Mike McLaren, finished undefeated and was named by USA Today as the #1 team in the country at season's end.
Faith and Community
The school's spiritual life is fostered by a Director of Campus Ministry and supported by a full-time chaplain/priest. Every Wednesday, the school worships together at Mass. All students are asked to serve those in need through a Christian Service Internship--forty hours/year for upperclassmen--led by a Christian Service coordinator. Prayer before assemblies, before ball games and before classes is frequent. The intellectual life of faith is supported by theology classes, required each year of high school, and the JPII Center for Scholarly Engagement, which hosts speakers and colloquiums to discuss topics of faith and society with students and the broader community.
Taking cue from its namesake, JPII is strongly ecumenical and welcomes the contributions of its non-Catholic students and families in the creation of a vibrant Christian community. In the words of the school headmaster, "Our faith is the lens through which the busy life of each student is focused." 
Following the British model, students are placed in one of six "Houses," each of which is named after an important pope in the Church's history (Gregory, Pius, Leo, John, Clement and Peter). Each house includes seniors, juniors, sophomore and freshmen, led by a faculty member as "House Master." The Houses are further sub-divided into 6-8 "Advisories," with each faculty member in the school assigned to twelve or so kids as their advisors. The Houses sponsor dances, conduct charitable fund-raising activities, and compete against each other in various contests throughout the year, including biannual "House games, " for the annual "House Cup." The school has two "Assemblies" each week in the school auditorium, one led by the school's headmaster, and the other by the student body president. The net effect is a lively community of support and good fun.
Since 2008, three JPII Science teachers have been named "Tennessee Distinguished Science Teacher of the Year," including Science Department chair Jennifer Dye, Physics teacher Luke Diamond, and Biology teacher Rachel Gordon. Gordon was also chosen as the state's most outstanding Biology teacher in 2012. Karen Phillips, Assistant Head and Dean of Studies, was named 2009 Southeastern A.P. Teacher of the Year in History.
When the school was built, Bishop Kmiec requested an artifact of Pope John Paul II to connect the students tangibly to the life of the school's namesake. The Vatican gave the school the pope's ski jacket, which he often wore on clandestine trips to the Alps while on vacation. In the spring of 2010, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Pope's death, the school unveiled a permanent display of the jacket in its hallways, including a photograph of the pope wearing the jacket. Faustin Weber, headmaster, said the display "reminds students that JPII was not only a linguist, scholar, playwright, and poet, but also that he was a kayaker, soccer player, and yes, a skier. His zest for life reflects our Renaissance vision for students." With the canonization of JPII on April 27, 2014, it is now a second-class relic.".
Though the generosity of Dr. Bill Noah, the school was site to a museum exhibit in the spring of 2010 entitled "Ink and Blood, " which traced the history of the written word through the many translations of the Bible. Incredibly, the exhibit featured ancient cuneiform tablets, Torah scrolls, fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a text from the gospel of John dating to the 3rd century, Latin manuscripts and leaflets from the Gutenberg press--all hosted in the school library.
JPII was the site of the filming for Taylor Swift's music video You Belong With Me. It was filmed in the football stadium and gym, using JPII football players, band members, cheerleaders and members of the senior class for the final prom scene. The "fans" in the stadium were students from the school. The high school's prom was the following night, and Swift used the school's prom decorations in her video. It was voted Female Video of the Year by MTV in 2009. Swift chose JPII because it was in her hometown of Hendersonville, TN and because her brother Austin is a 2010 graduate of the school.
Golden Tate, class of 2007, is currently a wide receiver for the NFL's Detroit Lions, having earned All American honors at the University of Notre Dame. He was named winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award as college football's top receiver in 2009. As a starting wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks from 2011-2014, he helped the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
In 2009 the school began the "John Paul II Distinguished Lecturer" series. Lecturers have included George Weigel, who wrote the definitive biography of Pope John Paul II, entitled "Witness to Hope," Tennessee governor, Bill Haslam, Vanderbilt professor and Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores.
Notes and references
- SACS-CASI. "SACS-Council on Accreditation and School Improvement". Retrieved 2009-06-23.[dead link]
- "Pope's ski jacket a cherished gift for John Paul II High School" By Tena Lee, Gannett Tennessee, March 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-04 via celebrifi.com.