In what he calls a “divinely inspired” situation, Keith Brackett has been named the new principal of Sacred Heart Catholic High School in downtown Hattiesburg.
Brackett was recently chosen to replace Elizabeth Yankay, who resigned as principal in December, after a national search headed up by parents, faculty and administrators. His new role officially started at the beginning of March.
“It’s absolutely coming home,” Brackett said. “I’m from Hattiesburg originally and went to (the University of Southern Mississippi) after I graduated high school. I was able to spend third through sixth grades at Sacred Heart because Sacred Heart didn’t go beyond the elementary at that time. However, my dad was the head coach of football at Sacred Heart for 15 years, so I grew up out there on the football field, from the time I was 3 or 4 years old to the time I was helping him coach flag football when I was in high school.”
Brackett most recently served as the assistant principal of special areas in the Braswell Zone in the Denton Independent School District in Texas and has been an assistant principal at the middle school and high school level for 12 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Miss, studied special education at Furman University and received his master’s degree in educational leadership from Jackson State University.
He worked with inpatient child and adolescent services at Pine Grove while in college and was a case manager serving the Adolescent Offender Program at Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources before beginning his career in education.
“The diversity of experiences I’ve had has allowed me a large view of possibilities,” Brackett said. “My background is in psychology, so social and emotional needs – especially right now, after COVID – is of utmost importance to me, as well as other staff.
“I know the teachers have taken a beating over the past year and a half. So, being in tune with those things and really working toward building that community of people who are compassionate and care for each other, (is vital), and based upon my perception, our leadership team is already focused on those areas.”
In his new role, Brackett is tasked with fulfilling the school’s mission of forming intentional disciples of Christ and ensuring academic excellence for the coming years. One of his first tasks will be to connect with students and all stakeholders while focusing on the spiritual aspect of the student body.
In addition, Brackett would like to look at developing a stronger music program at the school and to capitalize on the momentum of other extracurricular activities such as athletics and mock trials.
“We want to continue all those traditions that we’re excelling in,” he said. “My thing is always wanting to figure out the passions of our students and our teachers and really collaboratively working to develop those.
“I’ve recently received the five-year strategic plan that’s been previously created; a lot of people put a lot of work and dedication into that. This is not my school – this is our school – and I look forward to working together with the leadership team that’s already in place so we can determine our next steps.”
Having worked for Mississippi Music through college, Brackett is a fan of the arts. As such, he would like to cultivate that program at the school.
“I want us to be a lighthouse of hope for the future and be a place where kids enjoy being,” Brackett said. “I want kids to be at school where they’re having fun, having a good time, enjoying who they’re becoming.
“The two things I’m most interested in doing are … teaching the kids how to love and how to forgive; those to me are the greatest characteristics of a Christian. To be able to instill that in them is the most important thing to me, and I believe if you start with the heart and train the brain, things have a tendency to work out in building a positive, thriving culture.”