By Joanne Ward, Editor-in-Chief, The Catholic Spirit
SOUTH AMBOY – In a few days, the Diocese of Metuchen will begin a new chapter in its Catholic education history when Raritan Bay Catholic Preparatory School opens its doors to more than 460 students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The new diocesan school has been created through the union of Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary High School and Sacred Heart Elementary School. The two schools are located on the same property and their buildings join with a gym and cafeteria being shared by all students.
Msgr. Michael J. Corona, executive director, diocesan Department of Education, said the concept of combining resources and offerings of South Amboy’s two Catholic schools arose this past school year when Sacred Heart School in South Amboy moved into the building adjacent to Cardinal McCarrick High School.
“The proximity of the school buildings lent itself to collaboration, shared experiences, and a natural bonding among the students, faculty and staff. So after prayerful deliberation and discussion, plans were developed to provide a more unified academic setting,” Msgr. Corona said.
Prior to the establishment of the new school, Cardinal McCarrick High was a diocesan school, while Sacred Heart was a parochial school. The new school they create will be diocesan. In letters to parents, Msgr. Corona emphasized that the high school and elementary school will remain individual entities.
“Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary High School and Sacred Heart Elementary School will not lose their individual identities, but will be strengthened as they bring together their traditions and dreams for the future,” he explained.
Referring to the name of the new school, Msgr. Corona noted, “Our new diocesan school looks forward to serving the Catholic school educational needs of the parishes in the Raritan Bay Deanery that do not have a Catholic elementary school.”
Ellen F. Ayoub, diocesan superintendent of schools, said Raritan Bay Catholic Prep will provide a seamless curriculum for all students. “The school’s faculty is fully committed to work collaboratively for the education of the whole child, from youth to young adult,” she said.
Ayoub noted that when told about the new school, the response was very positive. “Parents were excited about Raritan Bay Catholic Prep once they realized how it will benefit both the younger students as well as those in high school,” she said.
Addressing the advantages of the new school, Ayoub said high school-level courses will be offered to qualifying eighth grade students, world languages will be more readily available for all students, and high school students will be able to earn service hours for assisting young students with their academics and learning through tutorials and clubs.
Presiding over Raritan Bay Catholic Preparatory School will be Karen Juliano as president. Joseph Conry will be the principal of Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary High School, in charge of curriculum and instruction. Franciscan Sister Marie Agnes Connolly will serve in the same capacity at Sacred Heart Elementary School.
As chief executive officer and leader of the preparatory school system, Juliano said her role is to articulate and ensure that the Catholic identity and mission of the school are carried out. She said she will work closely with the elementary and high school principals in developing academic and co-curricular programs, then added, “I will also provide oversight of recruitment, admissions, marketing, finances, facilities and advancement.”
Juliano said she foresees her main challenge in the coming year as “working with everyone so we will become a strong united educational institution that will build on the strengths of the two schools as we become one.”
Well prepared for the coming school, Conry noted, “As an administrative team, we have been working together throughout the summer to make this year one to remember here at Raritan Bay Catholic. Several events have been scheduled throughout the year which will bring the high school and elementary schools together for the celebration of Masses, pep rallies and Catholic Schools Week events. There will also be professional development opportunities for our faculties.”
Addressing opportunities for high school students the new school will offer, Conry noted they will benefit from working with younger students, joint learning experiences and the chance to build a stronger faith community that crosses generational lines.
Saying she is excited to be involved in launching a new endeavor, Sister Marie Agnes said, “As one school with a single vision and mission, I hope that Raritan Bay Catholic Prep will be a “beacon of hope” for Catholic education in the diocese.
She cautioned, however, “While we move forward creating something new, I believe that everyone must remember our roots, the parishes and communities from which the new school came.”
“It is my hope,” Juliano said, “that we will be an excellent, unique, Catholic school system K-12 that will be among the top Catholic schools in New Jersey. We will grow our academic programs, our athletics and extra-curricular programs, but most of all; we will grow in our Catholic faith and identity.”
Echoing the administrators sentiments, Msgr. Corona quoted the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who said that schools “can and should function as a catalyst, being a place of encounter and convergence of the entire educational community with the single objective of shaping and helping the students grow as mature, simple, honest and competent persons who know how to love faithfully, who know how to live their lives as a response to God’s call and their future professions as a service to society.” That is our vision for Raritan Bay Catholic Preparatory School, Msgr. Corona added.
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