When John Pica took the helm of Saint Agatha Academy in Winchester, PictureKentucky, seven years ago, the academic program at the school was neither broken nor struggling. He felt his own three children had received an excellent education and firm Catholic foundation at the pre-K through 8th grade school in a suburb of Lexington. After a 20-year career in higher education administration, Mr. Pica felt called to serve the Catholic school system. He had no intention of shaking up the curriculum.

A year later Rev. Frank Brawner arrived as the new pastor, and the two took a fresh look at the strengths and weaknesses of the school. Founded in 1919 by the Sisters of Divine Providence, Saint Agatha Academy is a small institution whose long history has had a big impact in the region. As with many Catholic schools across the Picturecountry, enrollment was down from its peak of about 200 in the late 1990s but was holding steady at about 135-140.

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