By Celine Klosterman
A national magazine for Catholic educators has awarded Holy Trinity Catholic Schools in Lee County for the schools’ merger beginning in the 2005-06 academic year.
Today’s Catholic Teacher honored the schools for “Innovation in restructuring or merging schools,” one of six areas in which the publication annually gives out Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Awards. The recognition is announced in the magazine’s March issue.
“What we are looking for is innovative projects that have succeeded to the point that they will inspire other schools in similar circumstances and in ways that other schools can replicate,” said Mary Noschang, editor-in-chief of Today’s Catholic Teacher. She was not part of the judging panel, which includes five Catholic educators and administrators. Judges’ comments are not released.
“We’re just tickled to death because it’s nice to be recognized” after a “painful” consolidation of rival school systems, Doris Turner said. She was principal of Aquinas Catholic Schools in Fort Madison when they merged with Marquette Catholic Schools of the West Point area to form Holy Trinity Catholic Schools, of which she is now principal. “It was a real honor to be able to guide that process.”
The Holy Trinity system includes a junior/senior high school in Fort Madison, an elementary division in West Point, and early childhood centers in Fort Madison and St. Paul. In kindergarten to 12th grade, 353 students are enrolled; 68 children are in the preschool and prekindergarten programs.
A page dedicated to Holy Trinity in the most recent issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher highlights building remodeling projects, talented and gifted classes, special education opportunities, arts and athletics programs, Advanced Placement classes and service projects at the schools. “And every year the school has ended at or below budget,” the page reads, using information submitted to the magazine by Shelley Sheerin, Holy Trinity’s communications coordinator.
“I think the biggest benefit has been, although both school systems were doing well before, we’re just so strong in all aspects: academically, athletically, spiritually and in the arts,” Turner said. “Most important is that we’re being good stewards of our resources.”
Noteworthy, she added, was that the merger took place while the Marquette and Aquinas systems were “still strong” in terms of enrollment. “Sometimes people wait until the last minute.”
Priests who served in Lee County throughout the merger helped, she said, and the school benefited from keeping members of both the Aquinas and Marquette school boards on Holy Trinity’s board.
“In the rural areas, it seems like everybody says the schools are going to close,” Turner said. “I hear that every year. But I think people realize people are doing what they have to do to keep the mission of Catholic education vibrant.”
Representatives from Holy Trinity will accept the award at a ceremony in Minneapolis April 7.