Christian Brothers School unites with St. Anthony
Starting in the 2016-17 school year, Christian Brothers School (CBS) will offer pre-kindergarten through seventh grade for boys and girls on two separate campuses in New Orleans.
Boys in fifth through seventh grade will continue to be educated at the City Park campus as they have been since 1960. Boys and girls in prekindergarten age 4 through fourth grade, and girls in fifth through seventh grade will now be educated with an accelerated program on the St. Anthony of Padua campus on Canal Street.
It was the implementation of the new grade-level structure of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans – pre-kindergarten through seventh grade on elementary campuses, and eighth through 12th grade on high school campuses – that resulted in Christian Brothers expanding its successful educational model to include grades as low as pre-kindergarten and, for the first time in its history, to educate girls.
Space constraints on its original City Park campus forced Christian Brothers School to look for an alternate site to add lower grades. That’s when it reached out to nearby St. Anthony of Padua School.
It took two years to map out the details of the union of the two school communities and their charisms – one Christian Brothers, the other Dominican.
“Once we knew this was a possibility, we began meeting (with the administration at St. Anthony of Padua School) for two years almost every other week,” Christian Brothers School president/principal Joey Scaffidi said. “At the heart and soul of all of our conversations with the superintendent ... was preserving the excellence of this (City Park) campus and the experience with it ... and that we would be one school on two campuses.”
Scaffidi said Christian Brothers’ current assistant principal Heath Barker spent many hours on St. Anthony’s campus forging relationships with the existing tight-knit students, parents and faculty to make the transition easier. He worked closely with Dominican Sister of Peace Ruth Angelette, St. Anthony’s current principal.
“The Lasallians and Dominicans have worked together to write a new chapter to the book,” Scaffidi said.
Sister Ruth will be director of the new 2- and- 3-year-old preschool program on St. Anthony campus and vice president in charge of the school’s mission and vision.
“We want her legacy and spirit to permeate all we do,” Scaffidi said, adding how she maintained the campus so well that only a few cosmetic changes were made, such as permanent fencing around the perimeter for security and upgrading technology to implement the 1:1 computers in the girls’ middle school program.
A reverse timetable was completed before the end of the 2014-15 school year to ensure faculty training, hiring (to have adequate faculty) and development and funding were in place for the launch.
Barker, who will be principal at the St. Anthony campus, said he brought back to Christian Brothers what he learned by observing there and brought to St. Anthony what CBS has to offer.
“The mission during the whole endeavor was to consult with the faculty and staff in solidifying the merger between the Dominican and Christian Brothers’ charisms,” Scaffidi said.
An instant visual of the successful merger is the new Christian Brothers School logo – a shield emblazoned with the Latin “Veritas”(truth) of the Dominicans and “Signum Fidei” (sign of faith) of the Christian Brothers with an “L” in the cross shape.
“We have gotten rave reviews over the new logo,” Scaffidi said.
Other strides to successfully complete the union of the two campuses included celebrating the Christian Brothers “next generations” Mass in August 2015 at St. Anthony with both schools invited, and having St. Anthony students perform at the CBS Christmas concert.
“It was a way to excite our communities about the impending endeavor,” Scaffidi said.
And, there were three open houses – two at St. Anthony and one at Christian Brothers – and the creation of a new uniform incorporating the maroon and grey colors of Christian Brothers School and saddle oxfords of the Dominican tradition, and adding a new plaid using a maroon, gray and black plaid specially created for the school, all with the new logo.
Barker will institute a morning academy day camp this summer on the St. Anthony campus as a bridge for existing students at St. Anthony to boost academic strengths.
Christian Brothers School also hired a support teacher who will concentrate on helping any student – new or existing – who is struggling behaviorally or academically at the St. Anthony campus.
Girls in the mix
The new campus allows Christian Brothers School – for the first time in its history – to extend the uniqueness of educating boys in fifth through seventh grade to girls in fifth through seventh grade in a dedicated space on third floor of the St. Anthony campus. Scaffidi said the girls’ curriculum will mirror the boys’, with additional extracurriculars such as competitive dance and cheer teams and non-contact ladies’ lacrosse specifically for girls as young as fourth grade.
Christian Brothers’ educational philosophy has always extended learning beyond the classroom. “It’s education of the whole person,” said Scaffidi. In that vein, prayer and extracurricular activities such as athletics (joining the Christian Youth Tackle Football League in lower grades), a marching band, academic-oriented clubs (adding chess and Bricks for Kids to St. Anthony campus), the Lasallian Youth Organization and arts and service opportunities will abound on both campuses.
The school is investigating a skills-based extracurricular program for pre-kindergarten age 4 through second-grade students and creating a drama program on the St. Anthony campus with two productions in the 2016-17 year. Now with a church connected to the new campus, there will be additional extracurricular outlets, such as altar serving.
All student applicants are screened for cognitive readiness to handle the rigor of the accelerated curriculum (the subject matter is a grade level ahead). To advance to the next grade, a student has to be successful.
Scaffidi said a commitment was made to St. Anthony families that no student would be left without a school. A pastoral outreach was extended to families who were concerned that their children would not succeed in an accelerated environment. Some families chose not to continue, and Barker has provided academic and pastoral support to them, a hallmark of the City Park campus.
“It speaks to how we view this endeavor,” Barker said. “We are taking what works well here and using it on the other campus.”
Over the 2015 summer, Christian Brothers administration and faculty met with St. Anthony faculty to discuss the enhanced curriculum. This year, parts of the accelerated program were incorporated into St. Anthony’s curriculum to “allow an easy transition into the accelerated program.”
With boys in fourth grade now attending ChristianBrothers on the St. Anthony campus and being screened for admission to fifth on the City Park campus, Scaffidi thinks this should reduce the number of fifth-grade boys’ applications on the City Park campus.
“By design, we wanted to create that possibility,” Scaffidi said, adding that he has been sensitive to the possible effect on other Catholic elementary schools and also conscious of parents’ right to choose education. “We know there are families who are closely tied to their elementary school and may not want to transfer or may not know if their son would benefit from an accelerated program until he is a lot older.”
Innovative teaching tools
Christian Brothers School utilizes Project Lead the Way (PLTW) STEM-based initiative, one of few schools in the state using this. The curriculum will be infused with female-gender bias for middle school girls “to empower young ladies in the STEM curriculum. They are going to get the same rigorous curriculum as the boys.”
Interest in the community has been high for the union of the schools, and already there is close to 350 registered for the Christian Brothers School at the new St. Anthony campus when it opens in August. There are waiting lists for pre-kindergarten 4, grades 4, 5 and 6. There are a few openings for kindergarten, first, second and third grade. Two sections of first through fourth grade will take a maximum of 60 students. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten has three sections of a maximum of 20 students. The middle school program for girls at St. Anthony is starting with one class in each grade.
“As I look to the future, the incoming pre-kindergarten class who will advance through the whole program is a strong group (using their cognitive test scores as a base),” Scaffidi said. “It has close to a 50/50 male-to-female mix.”
Tuition will be $7,100 plus a $1,000 building fee on the Christian Brothers School City Park campus; and $6,900 with no building fee on the St. Anthony campus. Scaffidi said the amount of financial aid awarded will be doubled to help make it affordable for St. Anthony students, since there is an approximate $1,500 gap from the current tuition.
This endeavor is different, innovative and daring, but Christian Brothers is up to this new chapter in its history, Scaffidi and Barker agreed.
“We would have never chosen this ourselves, but the faith life of this community, coupled with the faith life of the St. Anthony community has allowed us to do this,” Barker said. “At the end of the day, when you have nothing left in the tank, you know you are living the Gospel. It’s what gives us the strength to continue on this endeavor. It’s been a tough couple of years, but it’s been possible with Christ living in us instead of us living in Christ.”
For details, visit www.cbs-no.org or call 486-6770.