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Staff Report (Florida Catholic)


The start of the 2017-2018 School Year brings new leadership to three Diocesan Catholic School.

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice welcomes Mary Caren “M.C.” Heffner, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples welcomes Maria Niebuhr, and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria welcomes Dr. Dan Guernsey.

Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Education Dr. Kristy Swol said a comprehensive selection process brought the best candidates to the three schools. The process included a dedicated search committee at each school which consisted of Diocesan, Parish and school leadership. Each person comes with the unique skills needed to lead their respective school into the future.

Mary Caren “M.C.” Heffner, the new principal of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice.

At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, Heffner arrives as a veteran educator with more than 15 years of experience in Catholic and public schools in Ohio, California, and since 2003 in Florida. She has a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction as well as an Education Specialists Degree in Leadership.

“I am extremely grateful of God’s blessings and am excited to lead the amazing faculty and staff at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, continuing the programs that go above and beyond in educating the whole child,” Heffner said. “Epiphany offers families and students the amazing gift of a Catholic, faith-filled education and I am excited to share this treasure with all of those who want a true Catholic education.”

Maria Niebuhr, the new principal at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples.

Niebuhr joins St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School with a degree in Marketing and was formerly employed as a Vice President for NatWest USA Bank. Niebuhr then spent 15 years teaching music, PK-8 and 2nd grade at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, while earning her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, and she recently participated in the Diocese of Venice Principal Discernment Program.

“I’m excited to continue the St. Elizabeth Seton tradition of providing a faith based, rigorous academic education grounded in Catholic values,” she said.

Dr. Dan Guernsey, new principal of the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria.

Dr. Guernsey is no stranger to the Academy at Ave Maria, having been its headmaster from its founding in 2007 to 2014. He returns following the school’s elevation as a full Diocese of Venice Catholic School. He holds a B.A. in English; a M.A. in English; a M.Ed. in Administration & Supervision, and an Ed.D. in Education. He also works with the Cardinal Newman Society on issues of Catholic identity in schools and is lead author of the Catholic curriculum standards used in dozens of Dioceses (including in Venice), and is a board member of the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools. He said he is focused on making the school great.

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