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Holy Nativity Episcopal School

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Important Update - JEH

July 1, 2020


Dear Loving Holy Nativity Families,

On October 18, 2018 when I asked the HNES Board to withdraw my letter of retirement, June 30, 2020 seemed a retirement date far in the future.  As it turns out, time does fly.

These nine years as your Head of School have been the most moving, challenging, continuously learning years of my 30+ in education. It remains a mystery to me how God worked in my life, leading me to this wonderful adventure with each of you and I am forever grateful.

The support of my family has made all the difference in what I could give to Holy Nativity. Both of our children, Robbie and Hilary, have been my steadfast cheerleaders even though they were often without their mother for spur-of-the-moment dinners, special family gatherings, or those one on one times when we all just want our mother to be around. Bob has been my rock and there is no way to be the HNES Head of School without a husband willing to always be there with words of encouragement, carry out dinners, and husband hugs. One wish I have for each of you is when your children are successful adults with children of their own,  and your marriage is older than you ever imagined a marriage could actually be, that you too experience the unselfish, loving support from your family I have received from my Bob, my Robbie and my Hilary.

When thinking of your school, you probably never have thought about the Board of Trustees having only one employee. That would be the Head of School. It makes the relationship between the Head of School and the President of the Board unique and extremely important.

How lucky I was that Rich Johnson was the President when I began. If you do not know Rich you are missing a delightful friend who is one of the nicest, most reliable people you will ever meet and a joy to have in your life. Rich was followed as President by Robert Carroll who most everyone knows because Robert has become such a vital part of the leadership of Bay County. The same calm, steady leadership you see in county government was my fortunate experience working with Robert.

Charlie Commander was President of the Board next and Charlie will always be one of my favorite people. He is serious when called for, a no-nonsense leader with a warm smile and a got-your-back mindset.  Clayton Syfrett followed and for the first time the Board President was kind of, well almost, related to me because he is the son of our long-time friends. Clayton had the unexpected responsibility of steering the school through the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, doing an extremely hard job with great dedication.

I want to also mention Bee Lee. As Vice President of the Board and a valued board member, Ben was the presumptive next President, but then the governor appointed him to do some heavy-duty work for the state. Between that commitment of time and his real job in the banking world, Ben felt he needed to withdraw his name from consideration as our Board President. However, Ben remained a dedicated member of the board.

At that time, Maggie Shuler was serving on the Executive Board. When Maggie was asked to be the nominee for Board President she said, “Yes, but let’s keep it quiet and maybe Bud won’t hear I have agreed to do this!” Laughing then, little did we suspect how important Maggie’s presidency was going to be and the hours of tireless work she would provide during the crisis of COVID-19. Knowing and working with Maggie Shuler has been an honor and a gift in my life.

So, the other 50 or so people who work at Holy Nativity are not the employees of the board? No, they are employees of the Head of School. Being an employer of an entire school full of folks has been a responsibility I never contemplated and some days it is easy and some days it is hard. But, what an unexpectedly rewarding part of my job it has been these last 9 years. I love each person who works at HNES more than they will ever know. I am so proud of the work they do and the hours of unsung heroes I have witnessed year after year after year. This is an exceptional school because it is staffed by exceptional people. Each one here provides a piece of the magic to our magical place we know as Holy Nativity.

You can be proud that you are part of an Episcopal school. It truly sets us apart. Looking back, I have not emphasized our Episcopalian identity often enough; it is our foundation and from where we draw or one rule: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. Being Episcopalian also gives us Father Steve Bates. What a joyful, entertaining, spiritually growing reminder of God’s love Fr. Steve has brought to my life and I know to your children’s lives as well. I have counted on and seek Fr. Steve’s guidance, solid view of living, and how-important-is-it questions when it comes to decisions. In a word, Fr. Steve is fantastic.

So, the time has come for me to say thank you for nine phenomenal years and to take this opportunity to say how very much I appreciate and love each of you. During these last years of crisis recovery and crisis preparation I have missed much of that treasured time of being with your children and visiting them in classrooms. Trips to our classrooms offer a source of inspiration. I smile when I have the memory of a little voice exclaiming, “I saw you in chapel!”

Holy Nativity has beautiful days ahead. We are so fortunate to have as Incoming Head of School with the passionate commitment of Cynthia Fuller, the approaching Board Presidency and excellent leadership of Brent Faison, the dedication of each of you to rally for the common purpose of excellence for your children, and a Mighty God on which to rely. We have learned that together we can do hard things with great love. We have before. We always do. We will again if called upon.

Every day is a day that God has made. “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

With gratitude, love, and certainty for our future,

Judy Hughes 


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School Address

205 Hamilton Ave

Panama City, FL 32401


Contact Info

(850) 747-0060 phone

(850) 747-7447 fax


Florida Council of Independent Schools NAIS National Association of Episcopal Schools

Holy Nativity Episcopal School admits students of any religion, race, creed, national or ethnic origin to all rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. Holy Nativity Episcopal School does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, creed, gender, national or ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, financial aid programs, or athletic and other school-administered programs.

Holy Nativity Episcopal School of Panama City Florida

205 Hamilton Ave • Panama City, Florida 32401

Phone (850) 747-0060 • Fax (850) 747-7447

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