St. Patrick Catholic School in Largo, Florida, is the newest member of the Alliance for Catholic Education's Notre Dame ACE Academies in partnership with the Diocese of St. Petersburg beginning this school year. The Notre Dame ACE Academies are a network of academically excellent, financially sustainable, and distinctively Catholic K-8 schools that operate through the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education.
The announcement was made jointly by Bishop Gregory Parkes, Superintendent Chris Pastura, and Aaron Brenner, the Gary and Barbara Pasquinelli Family Director of the Notre Dame ACE Academies.
"The expansion of ACE Academies is a blessing that will benefit many families who choose Catholic education for their children," Bishop Parkes said. "They have an innovative approach that is meeting an important need."
St. Patrick is the third school from the Diocese of St. Petersburg to join the network. St. Joseph and Sacred Heart Catholic schools became part of the network in 2012 under Bishop Robert Lynch.
"We have a wonderful relationship with the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and we are excited to bring St. Patrick into the Notre Dame ACE Academies family," Brenner said. "We are committed to working together with St. Patrick leadership to provide a transformational education that guides all students along the path to college and heaven."
The mission of the Notre Dame ACE Academies is to provide a Catholic education of the highest quality to as many children as possible by mobilizing the resources of the University, the diocese, statewide parental choice programs, and local communities. ACE faculty and staff work closely with school and diocesan leaders to increase academic achievement, boost enrollment, and strengthen the schools' Catholic identity by enhancing school leadership, curriculum, instruction, professional development, financial management, and marketing.
The Notre Dame ACE Academies were founded in 2010 as a response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' call for a "new model of sponsorship and collaboration" between Catholic institutions of higher education and parish schools. The network has heeded the call and continues to grow while experiencing both academic and enrollment gains in its schools.
The existing Notre Dame ACE Academies are closing the achievement gap that many inner-city students experience. From fall 2011 to spring 2015, on average, students improved in math from the 31st percentile to the 67th percentile in STAR assessments, moving from the bottom third to the top third in the nation. In 2015, the network was recognized by the White House as an outstanding resource of educational excellence for Hispanic students.
Enrollment gains at the current Notre Dame ACE Academies have been dramatic as well, defying national trends in Catholic schools. Since the partnership began, Notre Dame ACE Academies in Tucson have increased enrollment by 80 percent, and schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg have grown their enrollment by 45 percent. Overall, the Notre Dame ACE Academies currently serve about 3,850 students and their families.
"The partnership with the University of Notre Dame helps us bring the best research and innovation to our students while remaining firmly committed to our faith," Pastura said. "St. Patrick Catholic School has a rich tradition of success. As the newest ACE Academy, we will continue that success for many years to come."
St. Patrick was founded in 1959 by Rev. John Scully and run by the Sisters of Mercy from Worchester, Massachusetts. The school was first accredited by the Florida Catholic School Conference in March 1974 and continues to be accredited by the Florida Catholic Conference and the National Council for Private School Accreditation. St. Patrick serves 155 students from preschool through grade eight. In 2016, Rev. Dominic Corona became pastor of St. Patrick Parish. Mr. Keith Galley was named principal in 2016.
The school worked with ACE throughout the past school year to implement benchmark testing for students, new curricular programs, professional development for teachers and enhanced school culture elements. This summer, the faculty and staff all attended the Notre Dame ACE Academies Summer Summit on campus at the University of Notre Dame. To start the school year, St. Patrick joined St. Joseph and Sacred Heart for a joint retreat and professional development.