Changes, improvements mark new academic year across Diocese of Trenton

Nancy McGaughan, director of advancement in St. Rose High School, Belmar, shows how new technology in the classroom will allow teachers to mark on smart screens, utilize the internet and record lessons that students can download at home. Jennifer Mauro photo

FROM THE MONITOR

By EmmaLee Italia, Contributing Editor, and Jennifer Mauro, Managing Editor

“We’ve come a long way in becoming a modern Catholic school while keeping the Catholic tradition alive,” Gregory J. Guito said while sitting in the science lab of St. Rose Grammar School.

“We’ve come a long way in becoming a modern Catholic school while keeping the Catholic tradition alive,” Gregory J. Guito said while sitting in the science lab of St. Rose Grammar School.

With a textbook open in front of him that demonstrates how technology and the written word are being integrated in student lessons, Guito looked around the lab – which was quiet, but will soon be filled with the hum of student voices raised in scientific exploration.

“Catholic education has so much to offer,” said Guito, principal of the Belmar school.

Guito’s sentiments were echoed by numerous school officials across the Diocese of Trenton as they looked ahead to the 2019-2020 academic year. From new curriculums, technology and partnerships to social service initiatives, staff changes and campus improvements, all agreed the upcoming academic year shows exciting growth. 

Curriculum

Sports is taking on a new look in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton. Under its new eSports program,  students will work in a remodeled eSports Center and compete in fall and spring seasons against other high schools in the High School eSports League, playing Rocket League, a combination of car racing and soccer. Students in the middle school will also be able to utilize the eSports Center after school. Sponsored by the Bank of Princeton, this program also brings additional scholarship opportunities to the Iron Mike community.

In addition, the Upper School will be implementing a World Language Online Learning Course through a partnership with Educere, the nation’s leading accredited online learning portal. Students will have the opportunity to learn Latin, German, French and Italian.

Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, will continue to “innovate for the future with the addition of new academic programs,” director of admissions David Moffa said.

The new STREAM (Science Technology Religion Engineering Arts Math) program will create a pathway for students to complete engineering courses, with curriculum being laid out over a four-course progression. Students start by taking STREAM art, and then progress through intro to engineering, civil engineering and architecture, and engineering design and development, he said. Additionally, there is a new financial literacy course.

A new financial class is also on the way in St. Rose High School, Belmar. A course in stocks, bonds and investments has been added to the school’s offerings, as well as five new classes in social studies, a drama class and a new music program offering instrumental and chorus learning.

These initiatives are possible due to the fact that the school is transitioning from a traditional eight-period day to a rotating drop schedule on a four-day rotation. What used to be seven classes and a lunch period are now eight classes with a shortened lunch and new flex period. With this schedule, students are able to take an extra class every year. Over their four-year tenure, that equals four additional classes. 

During the flex period, which is after lunch, students can go to academic centers for tutoring, quiet study time or to work on projects with classmates. Or, thanks to the new music classes, that time can be used to practice instruments or singing. 

“It’s a new St. Rose,” Principal John Tonero said, adding that the school will also offer two college-credit classes through Seton Hall University, South Orange, that will be transferable. “We’ve always had great academics, and we’re just looking to enhance our offerings.”

Also partnering up: St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, and Georgian Court University, Lakewood. SJVHS students can take business, theology and nutrition courses with SJVHS instructors and graduate high school with a Georgian Court University transcript. 

St. John Vianney itself is also looking to inspire younger children. Under a new pilot program, eighth-graders in St. Benedict School, Holmdel, will be offered a high school-level advanced algebra class through SJVHS during their final year. These students will be starting the program this fall as their math course for the full school year. 

“This exciting new program will afford our students advanced math courses on a high school level and open the doors for future partnerships,” St. Benedict School officials said.

Similarly, St. Rose Grammar School has renewed its partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, which has consultants who work with the school’s educators. 

“It’s really good to have a university partnership because they know what is the latest in science education and engineering, math and technology and what colleges are expecting from students,” Guito said.

The school also has an updated science program through Pearson Interactive that combines textbooks with interactive online experiences. “It’s a dual entity where students have access to a body of text, where they can react in writing, as well as online to support more research and understanding of that subject matter,” he said.

“All the new curriculum today, whether it is science, math or reading, has technology components to it,” he continued. “We even have a social studies program that is a tech-book in the upper grades, through National Geographic. When middle school students turn on their Chromebooks, it gives them the latest information related to current events and history.”

Our Lady of Sorrows School, Hamilton, is excited to unveil a new “MakerSpace,” developed to enhance and further develop its STREAM curriculum. This classroom will be utilized by all grades, and offers alternative seating, technology and project-based learning opportunities in a new environment. 

St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, has been working vigorously all summer to develop a new addition to its middle school curriculum. The Middle School Enrichment Academy will offer a variety of classes consisting of leadership, business, robotics, marine and eco science programs.

Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, is offering two concentrations of study – applied science and communications – beginning this school year. Concentrations are used to customize, focus, and enhance the high school learning experience and are similar to a college minor. This allows students to focus their course of study to reflect their desired career path.

“If we’re doing our job here, our students will emerge as leaders,” said Ken Jennings, Notre Dame’s new president. “The excitement will come as we expand our offerings to prepare students for the jobs and challenges of tomorrow.” 

In Holy Cross Academy, Rumson, a full curriculum review was instituted at all grade levels, beginning with math and science. A new math curriculum is now in place for grades K-8, and the Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum is now in grades 2-5, in addition to the Next Generation Science Standards in grades 6-8 already in place. Students will also have weekly STEM classes to put all they have learned into practice.

Middle school students in Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, meanwhile, will be able to choose an instrument of study from woodwinds, brass or strings. The Middle School Instrumental Ensemble will perform at various school concerts and events. This group will function alongside the well-established junior chorus program. A similar instrumental program will be offered to high school-level musicians as well.

Technology

In preparation for this year’s new online standardized testing, St. Paul School, Burlington, has upgraded its computer lab with 20 new computers and headsets. The internet now has eight new access points, growing from the previous two. Classrooms are being equipped for the modern era, as each is receiving a new Promethean interactive board with touchscreen displays. Similar technology is being utilized in Trenton Catholic Academy, which is using Newline Interactive TRUTOUCH boards, as well as St. Rose High School.

Explaining its new Smart TV technology that replaced SmartBoards, Nancy McGaughan, director of advancement in St. Rose High School, said lessons that the teachers give will be recorded and can be downloaded by students at home. As they are teaching, teachers can pull from the internet or show a video.

“It’s all right here,” she said, making a circle with a digital pen on the screen. “Teachers can write on it like a Smartboard. The kids can project their schoolwork or projects on the display, too.”

Global Awareness

Believing that international learning encourages critical thinking about issues such as poverty, climate change, religious and cultural differences, world trade and politics, Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, is continuing to expand its global awareness.

The school has joined with Catholic Relief Services to become a CRS Global High School. Through the vehicles of prayer, learning, action and giving, the CRS Global High School Program assists schools in forming internationally aware and globally responsive students who live their faith in solidarity with those around the world, said MaryBeth DeBlasio, coordinator of campus ministry.

Activities throughout the year will include fundraising and fasting events, Stations of the Cross with a global focus and the painting of a mural of the world. When something occurs in a particular country, DeBlasio explained, a Crucifix sticker will be put on that part of the world to encourage prayer among the school’s students and staff. 

“We wanted to put a faith perspective on global needs,” DeBlasio said. “This program inspires young people to be more aware of the global Church. We hope they continue to learn that by virtue of our Baptism, we continue to serve all God’s children with our time and talents.”

In addition, the school will expand its partnership with the Colegio Los Sauces student exchange program. Now, six Los Sauces students will come from Spain to Donovan Catholic for three months in the fall, and Donovan students will go to Spain for three months in the winter. Its international student body has grown to include students from Finland, Thailand and Italy in addition to China and Vietnam.

Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, meanwhile, will continue to emphasize the value of service immersion trips, both close to home and around the country. There will be seven to nine different overnight service immersion trips, including to the De LaSalle Blackfeet School in Montana, the LaSalle Educational Center in Homestead, Fla., the Romero Center in Camden, and a service expedition to Appalachia. 

In addition, there will be after-school service trips throughout the year including tutoring at Mt. Carmel, mentoring at St. Benedicts and Red Bank Charter, Street Corner ministry in Asbury, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and many others.

Sustainability

St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, continues to reap the rewards of solar panels installed in October 2018, as part of a plan to make the school “greener” and to save money. The solar panels cover a walkway between the school and parking lot; additional panels were recently added between the parking lot and the adjoining St. Ann Parish’s faith development center. 

“It was supposed to be supplementing our energy cost,” Principal Salvatore Chiaravalotti said, “but at this point, we haven’t had a bill from PSE&G for a while, and we actually have credit because of how much energy we’re producing.”

Meanwhile, with the addition of a new tower garden purchased through a donation from a generous corporate entity, St. Peter School will be able to allow a select group of students to learn to nurture, grow and harvest a selection of vegetables that will be used in the school’s cafe and donated to the local food pantry.

And St. Leo the Great School plans to continue its green initiatives. The school was selected as a 2019 New Jersey Green Ribbon School by the Environmental Awareness and Sustainability Recognition Program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

“To not only achieve academic success but to be good citizens of the environment is a natural progression as we incorporate STEAM curriculum in our school,” Principal Cornelius Begley said at the time of recognition.

Campus Improvements

Many schools were busy in the spring and summer in an effort to upgrade facilities.

Energy-efficient lighting was installed throughout the entire building in Holy Cross Preparatory Academy as well as new doors to improve safety and security. In Trenton Catholic Academy, a wall separating the Lower School computer lab and media center was opened to accommodate both research and design. Tennis courts were resurfaced and the cross country course was improved in anticipation of hosting the cross country Penn-Jersey championships this fall in Villa Victoria Academy.

Students in Notre Dame High School will also have the opportunity to learn and empower their minds in its new “Classroom of the Future.” The refurbished learning space features state-of-the-art technology and modular furniture arranged to allow individual learning, collaboration or lecture.

St. Rose High School refurbished its outdoor stairs, which were damaged in Superstorm Sandy, freshened up its landscaping and tackled athletic field renovations – all of which were made possible from the school’s Century Club.

The club, which began in October 2018, was created in anticipation of the school’s 100th anniversary in 2023. Members are asked to give $5,000 each year for five years. There are currently 38 members.

“We’ve been finding more and more people who want to invest in our future and be part of making sure St. Rose is on great footing for the next 100 years,” McGaughan said.

Faculty Changes

This summer, Red Bank Catholic announced Patricia Hendricks as director of guidance, and Casey alum Angelica Rocco as director of admissions and financial aid. “I believe that their skills, talents, and passion will contribute to the success of our students and school as a whole,” Principal Robert Abatemarco said. 

St. Charles Borromeo School, Cinnaminson, is welcoming four new teachers – Judith Plunkett, Kelli Santino, Elizabeth Sandeen and Nicholas Pascale – while Villa Victoria Academy adds Matt Lydon to the English Department. St. John Vianney High School added two academic support advisers to its staff, as well as a part-time licensed social worker for students during the school day.

coming a modern Catholic school while keeping the Catholic tradition alive,” Gregory J. Guito said while sitting in the science lab of St. Rose Grammar School.

With a textbook open in front of him that demonstrates how technology and the written word are being integrated in student lessons, Guito looked around the lab – which was quiet, but will soon be filled with the hum of student voices raised in scientific exploration.

“Catholic education has so much to offer,” said Guito, principal of the Belmar school.

Guito’s sentiments were echoed by numerous school officials across the Diocese of Trenton as they looked ahead to the 2019-2020 academic year. From new curriculums, technology and partnerships to social service initiatives, staff changes and campus improvements, all agreed the upcoming academic year shows exciting growth. 

Curriculum

Sports is taking on a new look in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton. Under its new eSports program,  students will work in a remodeled eSports Center and compete in fall and spring seasons against other high schools in the High School eSports League, playing Rocket League, a combination of car racing and soccer. Students in the middle school will also be able to utilize the eSports Center after school. Sponsored by the Bank of Princeton, this program also brings additional scholarship opportunities to the Iron Mike community.

In addition, the Upper School will be implementing a World Language Online Learning Course through a partnership with Educere, the nation’s leading accredited online learning portal. Students will have the opportunity to learn Latin, German, French and Italian.

Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, will continue to “innovate for the future with the addition of new academic programs,” director of admissions David Moffa said.

The new STREAM (Science Technology Religion Engineering Arts Math) program will create a pathway for students to complete engineering courses, with curriculum being laid out over a four-course progression. Students start by taking STREAM art, and then progress through intro to engineering, civil engineering and architecture, and engineering design and development, he said. Additionally, there is a new financial literacy course.

A new financial class is also on the way in St. Rose High School, Belmar. A course in stocks, bonds and investments has been added to the school’s offerings, as well as five new classes in social studies, a drama class and a new music program offering instrumental and chorus learning.

These initiatives are possible due to the fact that the school is transitioning from a traditional eight-period day to a rotating drop schedule on a four-day rotation. What used to be seven classes and a lunch period are now eight classes with a shortened lunch and new flex period. With this schedule, students are able to take an extra class every year. Over their four-year tenure, that equals four additional classes. 

During the flex period, which is after lunch, students can go to academic centers for tutoring, quiet study time or to work on projects with classmates. Or, thanks to the new music classes, that time can be used to practice instruments or singing. 

“It’s a new St. Rose,” Principal John Tonero said, adding that the school will also offer two college-credit classes through Seton Hall University, South Orange, that will be transferable. “We’ve always had great academics, and we’re just looking to enhance our offerings.”

Also partnering up: St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, and Georgian Court University, Lakewood. SJVHS students can take business, theology and nutrition courses with SJVHS instructors and graduate high school with a Georgian Court University transcript. 

St. John Vianney itself is also looking to inspire younger children. Under a new pilot program, eighth-graders in St. Benedict School, Holmdel, will be offered a high school-level advanced algebra class through SJVHS during their final year. These students will be starting the program this fall as their math course for the full school year. 

“This exciting new program will afford our students advanced math courses on a high school level and open the doors for future partnerships,” St. Benedict School officials said.

Similarly, St. Rose Grammar School has renewed its partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, which has consultants who work with the school’s educators. 

“It’s really good to have a university partnership because they know what is the latest in science education and engineering, math and technology and what colleges are expecting from students,” Guito said.

The school also has an updated science program through Pearson Interactive that combines textbooks with interactive online experiences. “It’s a dual entity where students have access to a body of text, where they can react in writing, as well as online to support more research and understanding of that subject matter,” he said.

“All the new curriculum today, whether it is science, math or reading, has technology components to it,” he continued. “We even have a social studies program that is a tech-book in the upper grades, through National Geographic. When middle school students turn on their Chromebooks, it gives them the latest information related to current events and history.”

Our Lady of Sorrows School, Hamilton, is excited to unveil a new “MakerSpace,” developed to enhance and further develop its STREAM curriculum. This classroom will be utilized by all grades, and offers alternative seating, technology and project-based learning opportunities in a new environment. 

St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, has been working vigorously all summer to develop a new addition to its middle school curriculum. The Middle School Enrichment Academy will offer a variety of classes consisting of leadership, business, robotics, marine and eco science programs.

Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, is offering two concentrations of study – applied science and communications – beginning this school year. Concentrations are used to customize, focus, and enhance the high school learning experience and are similar to a college minor. This allows students to focus their course of study to reflect their desired career path.

“If we’re doing our job here, our students will emerge as leaders,” said Ken Jennings, Notre Dame’s new president. “The excitement will come as we expand our offerings to prepare students for the jobs and challenges of tomorrow.” 

In Holy Cross Academy, Rumson, a full curriculum review was instituted at all grade levels, beginning with math and science. A new math curriculum is now in place for grades K-8, and the Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum is now in grades 2-5, in addition to the Next Generation Science Standards in grades 6-8 already in place. Students will also have weekly STEM classes to put all they have learned into practice.

Middle school students in Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, meanwhile, will be able to choose an instrument of study from woodwinds, brass or strings. The Middle School Instrumental Ensemble will perform at various school concerts and events. This group will function alongside the well-established junior chorus program. A similar instrumental program will be offered to high school-level musicians as well.

Technology

In preparation for this year’s new online standardized testing, St. Paul School, Burlington, has upgraded its computer lab with 20 new computers and headsets. The internet now has eight new access points, growing from the previous two. Classrooms are being equipped for the modern era, as each is receiving a new Promethean interactive board with touchscreen displays. Similar technology is being utilized in Trenton Catholic Academy, which is using Newline Interactive TRUTOUCH boards, as well as St. Rose High School.

Explaining its new Smart TV technology that replaced SmartBoards, Nancy McGaughan, director of advancement in St. Rose High School, said lessons that the teachers give will be recorded and can be downloaded by students at home. As they are teaching, teachers can pull from the internet or show a video.

“It’s all right here,” she said, making a circle with a digital pen on the screen. “Teachers can write on it like a Smartboard. The kids can project their schoolwork or projects on the display, too.”

Global Awareness

Believing that international learning encourages critical thinking about issues such as poverty, climate change, religious and cultural differences, world trade and politics, Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, is continuing to expand its global awareness.

The school has joined with Catholic Relief Services to become a CRS Global High School. Through the vehicles of prayer, learning, action and giving, the CRS Global High School Program assists schools in forming internationally aware and globally responsive students who live their faith in solidarity with those around the world, said MaryBeth DeBlasio, coordinator of campus ministry.

Activities throughout the year will include fundraising and fasting events, Stations of the Cross with a global focus and the painting of a mural of the world. When something occurs in a particular country, DeBlasio explained, a Crucifix sticker will be put on that part of the world to encourage prayer among the school’s students and staff. 

“We wanted to put a faith perspective on global needs,” DeBlasio said. “This program inspires young people to be more aware of the global Church. We hope they continue to learn that by virtue of our Baptism, we continue to serve all God’s children with our time and talents.”

In addition, the school will expand its partnership with the Colegio Los Sauces student exchange program. Now, six Los Sauces students will come from Spain to Donovan Catholic for three months in the fall, and Donovan students will go to Spain for three months in the winter. Its international student body has grown to include students from Finland, Thailand and Italy in addition to China and Vietnam.

Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, meanwhile, will continue to emphasize the value of service immersion trips, both close to home and around the country. There will be seven to nine different overnight service immersion trips, including to the De LaSalle Blackfeet School in Montana, the LaSalle Educational Center in Homestead, Fla., the Romero Center in Camden, and a service expedition to Appalachia. 

In addition, there will be after-school service trips throughout the year including tutoring at Mt. Carmel, mentoring at St. Benedicts and Red Bank Charter, Street Corner ministry in Asbury, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and many others.

Sustainability

St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, continues to reap the rewards of solar panels installed in October 2018, as part of a plan to make the school “greener” and to save money. The solar panels cover a walkway between the school and parking lot; additional panels were recently added between the parking lot and the adjoining St. Ann Parish’s faith development center. 

“It was supposed to be supplementing our energy cost,” Principal Salvatore Chiaravalotti said, “but at this point, we haven’t had a bill from PSE&G for a while, and we actually have credit because of how much energy we’re producing.”

Meanwhile, with the addition of a new tower garden purchased through a donation from a generous corporate entity, St. Peter School will be able to allow a select group of students to learn to nurture, grow and harvest a selection of vegetables that will be used in the school’s cafe and donated to the local food pantry.

And St. Leo the Great School plans to continue its green initiatives. The school was selected as a 2019 New Jersey Green Ribbon School by the Environmental Awareness and Sustainability Recognition Program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

“To not only achieve academic success but to be good citizens of the environment is a natural progression as we incorporate STEAM curriculum in our school,” Principal Cornelius Begley said at the time of recognition.

Campus Improvements

Many schools were busy in the spring and summer in an effort to upgrade facilities.

Energy-efficient lighting was installed throughout the entire building in Holy Cross Preparatory Academy as well as new doors to improve safety and security. In Trenton Catholic Academy, a wall separating the Lower School computer lab and media center was opened to accommodate both research and design. Tennis courts were resurfaced and the cross country course was improved in anticipation of hosting the cross country Penn-Jersey championships this fall in Villa Victoria Academy.

Students in Notre Dame High School will also have the opportunity to learn and empower their minds in its new “Classroom of the Future.” The refurbished learning space features state-of-the-art technology and modular furniture arranged to allow individual learning, collaboration or lecture.

St. Rose High School refurbished its outdoor stairs, which were damaged in Superstorm Sandy, freshened up its landscaping and tackled athletic field renovations – all of which were made possible from the school’s Century Club.

The club, which began in October 2018, was created in anticipation of the school’s 100th anniversary in 2023. Members are asked to give $5,000 each year for five years. There are currently 38 members.

“We’ve been finding more and more people who want to invest in our future and be part of making sure St. Rose is on great footing for the next 100 years,” McGaughan said.

Faculty Changes

This summer, Red Bank Catholic announced Patricia Hendricks as director of guidance, and Casey alum Angelica Rocco as director of admissions and financial aid. “I believe that their skills, talents, and passion will contribute to the success of our students and school as a whole,” Principal Robert Abatemarco said. 

St. Charles Borromeo School, Cinnaminson, is welcoming four new teachers – Judith Plunkett, Kelli Santino, Elizabeth Sandeen and Nicholas Pascale – while Villa Victoria Academy adds Matt Lydon to the English Department. St. John Vianney High School added two academic support advisers to its staff, as well as a part-time licensed social worker for students during the school day.

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