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Revitalization plans announced for Cape Ann school

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BRIGHTON -- Working in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston’s 2010 Strategic Planning Committee and the Catholic School Office (CSO), the school and parish communities of Gloucester have developed a plan that will implement a new vision for the 123-year-old St. Ann Elementary School. It is the third phase of the 2010 Initiative, announced in 2005, to revitalize archdiocesan schools -- plans have already been implemented in Brockton and the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester/Matttapan.

This past fall, St. Ann’s, the 2010 committee and CSO convened a consulting board of local business people who enthusiastically supported the idea of rejuvenating the school and worked with local pastors to develop a plan.

In a joint statement, co-pastors Father Ronald Gariboldi and Father Timothy Harrison of Holy Family Parish in Gloucester said, “We are grateful for the efforts and contributions of so many who have helped to develop a plan that will greatly enhance Catholic education in our community. We recognize the commitment of generations of Catholic school students who have been educated at St. Ann’s over more than a century. With the support of Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the Archdiocese of Boston and the 2010 Initiative, we look with confidence to the future of Catholic education on Cape Ann. We trust in the Lord’s continued blessings on us all.”

The plan for St. Ann School, the only Catholic elementary school on Cape Ann, calls for stronger management, increased enrollment, decrease in tuition, a partnership with Merrimack College, implementation of new academic standards, facility improvements, and an aggressive marketing and development initiative.

Faced with a 43 percent decrease in enrollment since 1999, St. Ann’s -- which was started as a school for Cape Ann’s fishing community -- is working to stabilize and increase enrollment while lowering tuition. Additionally, it seeks to enhance its offerings in the areas of curriculum, technology and programs such as expanded pre-K.

Sister Kathleen FitzSimons, CND, interim superintendent of the Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Schools, said, “Quality schools require planning and resources to meet today’s needs. This includes strong academic programs with technology, competitively paid and trained teachers, improved facilities, pre-K/full-day programs, and extended day programs. With this plan we are aggressively working to see that St. Ann achieves these and more.”

As part of the curriculum enhancements, the school will implement a new math series in kindergarten through eighth grade, enhanced faith formation and new and expanded pre-K.

In designing the plan being unveiled, tuition was a key factor. The decision was made to decrease tuition from the current rate of $4,200 to $3,500 for the 2008/2009 academic year.

The facility has extensive deferred maintenance, which needs to be addressed. The new vision for the school includes a plan to upgrade and renovate the facility. The renovation is anticipated for the summer of 2009.

To help fund this effort, a $4.5 million capital campaign has begun and will continue over the next 18 months. Plans are also underway to build an endowment to support the school in future years.

In addition, an aggressive marketing program has been created to increase enrollment. Launched during the recent Catholic Schools Week, plans are also underway to develop a new Web-site and a full calendar of school and parish based events in support of this new initiative.

To move toward a sustainable viability, a goal has been set to grow enrollment to 175 for the 2008/2009 academic school year and to 225 students within the next three years. Currently, there are 130 students enrolled with one class per grade, pre-K to grade eight.

“Working with Merrimack College, an assessment was performed and curriculum is being enhanced for the 2008/2009 school year. Ongoing teacher training is continuing this month to assist in this implementation phase,” said Sister Judy O’Brien, IHM, principal of St. Ann’s.

She added that “we will be investing in our teachers over the next three years with a phase-in of salary increases. The result will be an extraordinary Catholic school experience for our students.”

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