It was a challenge that required 16 months of research and creative thinking, but Christian Brothers School in City Park and St. Anthony of Padua School on Canal Street are joining forces to produce a new elementary school, on two campuses, that both fulfills the grade-level guidelines of the strategic plan for archdiocesan Catholic schools and creates a new entity with a bold educational vision.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced Aug. 11 that Christian Brothers and St. Anthony of Padua will form a new school – St. Anthony of Padua: A Christian Brothers School – offering grades from pre-kindergarten through seventh grade for both boys and girls on two campuses.
The new school officially will be launched for the 2016-17 academic year, after the two schools work through logistical plans for administration, faculty and students. The additional year of planning also will shine a spotlight on St. Anthony of Padua School, which opened in 1915, as it celebrates its centennial in 2015-16.
Details on the registration and admissions process for the new school will be released in 2015.
Three ‘schools’ in one
Here is the new school’s structure:
For pre-school (4 years old) through fourth grade, boys and girls will be taught in a coeducational environment on the St. Anthony of Padua campus.
Girls in fifth through seventh grades will remain on the St. Anthony of Padua campus as part of a self-contained middle school for girls.
Boys in fifth through seventh grades will transfer to Christian Brothers’ City Park campus for middle school.
Scaffidi has oversight
Joey Scaffidi, president of Christian Brothers School, will be the president of the new school with oversight over both campuses. While details are still being discussed, Scaffidi said he thought each program on the St. Anthony campus – the coed elementary school and the middle school for girls – would have an administrator in charge. A rigorous, accelerated curriculum will be implemented on both campuses.
“It has taken some time and it has taken a great deal of work, but that has made the prize that much more special,” said Scaffidi, who in 1998 became the first lay principal of Christian Brothers School.
“This is going to bring about a very strong presence of Catholic education in the city of New Orleans because we draw from all over and Christian Brothers draws from all over,” said Dominican Sister of Peace Ruth Angelette, who has been principal of St. Anthony of Padua for 40 years.
“When we put all these numbers together and we start growing, it’s going to be a very much alive situation on Canal Street.”
The impetus for the new school was the new strategic plan for Catholic schools, which stipulated that Catholic elementary schools would offer grades pre-K through 7 and high schools would offer grades 8-12. As a middle school for boys – offering fifth, sixth and seventh grades – Christian Brothers found itself looking for creative options.
A team effort
Scaffidi worked extensively on the plan with Dr. Jan Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools; Sister Ruth; Dominican Father John Restrepo, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua; and Christian Brother David Sinitiere, former provincial.
“I would say it was extremely challenging, but now we are extremely elated,” Scaffidi said. “We wanted to retain, of course, the formal blessing of being a Catholic school. We also wanted to be more than simply compliant with the strategic plan by designing a program that we felt would best serve the young people of New Orleans.”
“I’m delighted that St. Anthony and Christian Brothers have come up with this bold and creative plan,” Lancaster said. “This kind of collaboration is what Catholic education is all about.”
Christian Brothers currently has about 115 students in each of its three grades. Among the challenges identified by the strategic plan was the impact Christian Brothers had on other Catholic elementary schools, whose transfer of rising fifth-grade boys made it difficult for those schools to plan.
Once the new school is up and running, Scaffidi expects most of the students going on to the girls’ and boys’ middle school programs will come from the new St. Anthony of Padua School. Scaffidi said that goal probably will take some time to reach.
“Conceptually, it is our objective to minimize the number of students transferring from other schools into the Christian Brothers’ middle school programs,” Scaffidi said. “To attain that, we would like to have as many as possible – ideally, all – ascend from our fourth-grade programs into the fifth-grade programs.
Will work toward goal
“The reality is, in the beginning, there aren’t going to be 115 boys coming out of the fourth grade (at St. Anthony of Padua), so there still will be an opportunity for boys to come in anew. We will have sensitivity to the impact that a disproportionate number of transfers coming from elementary schools might cause.”
Christian Brothers School currently has a $6,600 tuition and $1,000 per family building fee. St. Anthony of Padua’s current tuition is $5,150. Scaffidi said Christian Brothers offers a financial aid program for its City Park campus and hopes to offer a similar program for the new school. The archdiocese also has limited tuition-assistance funds available for students.
Sister Ruth part of ‘team’
Sister Ruth, who will be a part of the administrative team for the new school, said while St. Anthony’s current enrollment is about 160, that number has remained stable in the last few years and the school has a balanced budget.
Sister Ruth also sees the blossoming of the Canal Street biomedical district as a strategic selling point for the new school.
“This is a time for new growth,” Sister Ruth said.
Over the next year, Scaffidi will hold weekly meetings to plan all elements of the new school.
“I’ve already begun conversations with the objective of designing a new curriculum, building faculty and working on a transition plan that extends deserved and rightful respect to the current administration, faculty, families and student body of St. Anthony,” Scaffidi said.
“All of that is going to take time. We want to be ready so that when a parent calls, we can be professionally responsive to them and have all the answers that we don’t have today but we know we will need in order to open a quality new school. Once we get to that point in 2015, we will be a little more proactive in receiving applications and registrations.”
The two schools also will work to incorporate the charisms of the Christian Brothers and the Dominicans.
“We know it as touching both the minds and hearts of young people,” Scaffidi said.
“Our motto is ‘Veritas’ (truth),” Sister Ruth said. “Our pillars are prayer, study, community and service, and that fits very much into what theirs is.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarion herald.org.