Bright Spots from the LEI: St. Gertrude the Great School
St. Gertrude the Great is a Catholic elementary school rooted in the Salesian tradition and located in the predominantly Latino community of Bell Gardens, California. It is the only Catholic school serving five of the surrounding communities, but after numerous years of declining enrollment, it was slated to close in 2011. That year, Mary Flock was hired as the new principal and inherited a school with no books, 7 teachers, and only 42 students. And if the task of turning the school around were not daunting enough, she was given one year to make it happen.
Mary and her team rolled up their sleeves and got to work, and from day one, her focus was on building a community. Through a lot of hard work, creativity, and sheer will to see St. Gertrude School succeed, Mary and her team were able to increase their enrollment from 42 students to 110 in a single year. Following that year, in the summer of 2012, Mary and her team attended the first Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) at Notre Dame to further build on the progress they had already made. They also worked closely with ACE’s field consultant in Los Angeles to implement the Madrinas marketing model. Today, St. Gertrude the Great School is thriving with 176 students enrolled, many of whom are from first-generation Latino families, and Mary serves as a mentor principal for the LEI.