Newton, Brighton Catholic high schools to merge in 2012

BRAINTREE -- Two area Catholic high schools, both founded more than a century ago, will merge to form St. Joseph's Preparatory High School, set to begin classes next September in Brighton.

Officials from Trinity Catholic High School in Newtown and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Brighton announced the merger in meetings at the two locations to faculty, staff, and parents on Sept. 27. The development, about a year in the making, will present significant changes to both communities -- one group will relocate, the other will adjust to becoming co-educational.

The new school will operate at the facilities of Mount St. Joseph Academy, currently an all-girls school founded in 1885 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston.

Trinity Catholic High School was opened in 1893 and originally staffed by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth. The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston also ran the school for 58 years. Currently, the school is affiliated with Our Lady Help of Christians Parish.

Both schools currently have an enrollment of around 200 students.

The new St. Joseph's Preparatory High School will be under the sponsorship of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.

"I think it's a great opportunity for two schools with a lot of great tradition and that really serve the mission of Catholic education, to come together and to build, what I envision and hope will be the premier intuition for Catholic education in the area," said Scott Kmack, principal of Trinity Catholic High School and 10 year veteran of the school.

Kathleen Fraser, principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy for 13 years and alumna of the school also expressed her reaction to the development.

"No school in 2020 is going to look like a school of 2012. Nor should it. With the sponsorship of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, St. Joseph Preparatory High School has a unique opportunity right now to take bold steps to ensure transforming excellence in Catholic education for the future and that's very hopeful," she said.

According to a news release from the schools, St. Joseph Preparatory "will offer a global perspective and interdisciplinary approach that seeks to enhance analytical and critical thinking skills, with an innovative use of technology."

"Vibrant theology and campus ministry programs will ensure the moral formation of all students in the social justice and ethical teachings of the Catholic Church," the release said.

According to Kmack, a head of school for St. Joseph's Preparatory High School is due to be named after the beginning of the calendar year. He also said that all positions for the new school will be open, so there will be an opportunity for current teachers to apply.

"We think it's very important to have faculty from both existing schools at St. Joseph's Preparatory High School, because that will make that transition for the students much easier and help to continue the legacies and traditions of both schools within this new school," said Kmack.

A transitional task force has been established with Father Joseph O'Keefe as the chair. Father O'Keefe has been an education professor for 20 years, and is a former dean of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.

He said that both schools serve lower income communities that are ethnically diverse.

"Precisely the kind of families the Church wants to serve," said Father O'Keefe.

He also said the development is a better financial model.

"It's sort of economy of scales, if you will. You can do a lot more creative things with 400 kids then you can with 200," said Father O'Keefe.

Boston College has assisted with the merger with the help of Father O'Keefe, curriculum development, media relations, marketing assistance, and the pledge of the use of their athletic fields for games.

"Through our Roche Center for Catholic Education within the Lynch School of Education, Boston College is committed to helping Catholic schools to succeed both locally and nationally," said Jack Dunn, director of public affairs for the university.

According to Dunn, tuition rates for the new school will be based on comparative rates of the existing schools.

Mary Grassa O'Neill, superintendent for Catholic schools and secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Boston, attended the meeting with parents at Trinity Catholic High School.

"The parents were respectful and thoughtful. Of course there's a sense of loss for their beloved Trinity Catholic High School, but a real sense of a positive move forward for a new school," said O'Neill.

She called the merger "a wonderful development."

"There are going to be more opportunities for students, and anytime that can happen that's a good thing for the archdiocese and for Catholic education," said O'Neill.

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