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John Kennedy installed as headmaster at Lakeview convocation
Incoming Head of School at Lakeview Academy Dr. John Kennedy, left, is greeted by Board Chairman Dr. Frank Booth during the school’s annual Convocation Ceremony Tuesday. - photo by Tom Reed

The first day of school at Lakeview Academy is entrenched in tradition.

School officials ring an old-fashioned school bell and faculty donned in their graduation robes and stoles walk across the academy's Walters Athletic Center.

All first- through 12th-graders fill the stands and rise to their feet as the teachers march to their seats.

Senior class members lead the pledge of allegiance, invocation and upper school signing of the honor code.

This year, the academy welcomed a new head of school - John Kennedy, who was principal at the K-8 St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio, Texas, for 10 years.

"It's not an easy task to conduct a search for the new head of school," Frank Booth, Board of Trustees chairman, said during Tuesday's ceremony. "Just as the new school year begins, Kennedy brings a renewed hope and sense of rededication and purpose."

Kennedy succeeds James C. Robison who was headmaster of Lakeview since 2005.

"Let what you do and say reflect your own integrity and the integrity of the principles that founded Lakeview Academy," Booth said for Kennedy's oath of office. "We charge you with the maintenance and guidance of the school and pledge our full support."

Since 2000, Kennedy was responsible for all aspects of St. Anthony's operations, including a capital campaign and a 2008 accreditation visit. In 2008, Kennedy received the Outstanding Leader in Catholic Education Award. He has been a board member of the Texas Association of Non-Public Schools since 2004 and from 2004-2006 served as the president of the San Antonio Independent Schools Association.

"Each day that you walk off this campus, do something decent, kind and honest," Kennedy told the students.

"Yes, academics, sports and the arts are good, but what did you do to touch somebody's life today?"

As the convocation ceremony wrapped up, students lined up to shake the hands of each of their teachers. Upper school students watched the freshmen ring the bell, signaling their initiation into their new school. The next time they will ring the bell is at graduation.

Kennedy greeted each student who rang the bell and headed to class.

A native of Winston Salem, N.C., Kennedy attended University of Dayton for his bachelor's and master's degrees. He earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota and taught for eight years in Ohio and Illinois.

Kennedy then became an English instructor at the American School of El Salvador, teaching as a civil war ended there. After three years, he became the English department head for the Schultz American School in Alexandria, Egypt. In 1998, he returned to the states as assistant principal for academics for Central Catholic High School in San Antonio.

After 12 years in San Antonio, "we decided to explore other options," Kennedy told The Times. "An education consultant told me about this school that a lot of people haven't heard of outside of Gainesville."

Kennedy brings wife Christin and sons Hayes, a sixth-grader, and Jack, a fourth-grader, to the area.

"Everyone has been very welcoming, and I'm excited to be here," he said. "I've been told Gainesville is a wonderful place to raise a family, and that seems to be true."