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The Diocese of Bridgeport Stamford Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
| February 02, 2017


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The Diocese of Bridgeport Stamford
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Please check the website often as these FAQ’s will be updated regularly

Which schools are being affected by the changes in Stamford?
        • There are 4 schools that will be affected in this area; Holy Spirit School, Our Lady Star of the Sea School, St. Cecilia School, and Trinity Catholic Middle School.

Our school was fine. Why did it have to be restructured?
        • The plan to restructure and thereby revitalize our schools is not about this year, next year or individual schools—it is about the future of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The plan examined the academic, demographic, financial, and enrollment trends in the region in order to make recommendations on how to best provide quality Catholic education in the entire area for generations to come.

The bishop announced that this would be an 18 month planning process which began in March 2016. Why is the planning being cut so short?
        • The planning process does not end with the announcement.  Over the next few months there will continue to be planning meetings to ensure that the success of the school and the smooth transition of students.  
        • The process actually began in 2015 when the Office of the Bishop began Viability Studies on each Catholic elementary school in the diocese. The study included an extensive analysis of enrollment and school age demographic trends, the financial position of schools and parishes, and a review of the facilities, technology and programs offered. These schools have been monitored over a multi-year period due to declining enrollment trends.
        • Partners in Mission, a national consulting firm focused exclusively on Catholic schools, was commissioned in June 2016 to study Catholic school education in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Partners in Mission are nationally known for their work in Catholic school leadership, advancement, enrollment management and strategic planning. The organization provided detailed research on the demographic and fiscal situation of towns and regions in Fairfield County.  School Planning Groups were asked to work under the consultation of Partners in Mission to formulate a strategic plan for schools. Final decisions had to be suggested to the Bishop by January 2017 in order to give parents adequate time to research options for enrolling their children in a Catholic school.

What criteria were used to determine which schools buildings will be utilized?
        • One of the tasks assigned to the planning group was to complete evaluations of the schools in the area and determine which facility would best allow for Catholic education to not only continue, but grow. Assessments of the buildings and grounds themselves were done to determine which school would have enough space to accommodate the number of students as it is currently configured today, and would also allow for growth. The age and condition of the buildings were noted. Busing and transportation needs of the students were also considered. A zip code analysis was also done to see exactly where our students are residing and where they are choosing to attend school.
 
How were the people on the Planning Committee selected?  
        • Many of the members of the Planning Committee were members of their School Advisory Boards. As the process was put into action, the Pastors of the local parish were asked to submit names of additional individuals who had connections to the school, an area of expertise that would benefit the process and a willingness to become part of the Committee. Each candidate then submitted resumes to the Bishop for his review. Bishop Caggiano then appointed the members to the Planning Committee.

How were parents involved in the process?
        • Parents from each school were given the opportunity to apply to be on the Planning Committee. Also, as the process continued, Parent Listening Sessions for all of the elementary school were held in each location so that the Planning Committee could hear feedback and listen to concerns from the school community.

I signed up to be part of a planning committee and did not hear back. Please explain.
        • Thank you for your willingness to be a part of this process.  If you did not hear back then, you will soon. There are many committees being created by the Board of Directors and they will need your input. Requests for participation on those committees will be announced in the near future.

Can you tell us anything more about the data that was used in making these decisions?
        • Tasked by Bishop Caggiano, the Office of the Superintendent compiled pertinent data on the schools in order to examine their state of viability. Some of the reports and analyses were derived from the following data:
                • US Census Bureau data
                • School Enrollment and Demographic data
                • Public School Enrollment and Demographic data
                • School Academic data
                • School Facilities and Programming data
                • National Catholic Educational Association data
                • School Financial data
                • School Community Engagement efforts
                • Parish Religion Education data
                • Maps of student addresses and their location relevant to schools
        • The planning committee used the data not only to examine the past and current state of the school but to look to the future. The data identified areas of opportunity. The new restructuring will allow schools to plan for the next level of excellence of Catholic education. The plan will build upon the strengths and hallmarks of our schools and will be focused on nurturing faith filled, academically successful students.

Were schools given the opportunity to do greater marketing or to offer new programs?
        • Yes, schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport are always encouraged to expand their marketing approach or start new initiatives. School leaders and selected school representatives throughout the Diocese have received training on various marketing and advancement best practices. The Diocesan Director of Community Engagement  also works closely with each individual school to plan the best strategies, promote current achievements and encourage new students and families to become part of the school community.
 
I heard that closings were because of debt owed to the Diocese. Is this true?
        • The data shows that some of the schools may have owed balances to the Diocese, but this is not the sole reason for the changes. The academic, demographic, financial, and enrollment trends were also examined. After investigating the facts and determining the benchmarks that needed to be reached for future success, it was revealed that no school individually would meet all the criteria necessary to be successful.
 
Will the Diocese benefit financially from the closure of schools?
        • The Diocese of Bridgeport will not benefit financially from the closure of any school. A parish whose school closes will retain ownership of the school building as well as the contents (not funded by government programs) of the building which may be utilized for other parish ministries.
        • Additionally, the Diocese has agreed to assume the debt of each of the schools closing.

For those parents that did not attend the listening sessions, how can they learn more about the plan?
        • We have set up a hotline for anyone to call in and have their specific questions answered. The number is 203.209.2894. If you do not reach a person on your first attempt, feel free to leave a message with your name and phone number and someone will call you back as soon as possible.  We have also designed a website for families who want more information. There you can find information about the new school as well as a registration link. The web address is www.catholicschoolsstamford.org

Is there enough capacity at the newly restructured school for all displaced students?
        • Yes. For the 2017-18 school year, Grades PreK-5 will be located at the St. Cecilia campus and Grades 6-8 will still be located at the Trinity Middle campus. There is enough room for everyone.

Will the new school have a designated gym and cafeteria?     
        • At this point the facilities at Trinity Catholic Middle School and St. Cecilia School will remain as they are. However, there are plans for the future renovations and construction that will create a designated gym and cafeteria for the new school.
 
Where will all the technology and educational programs from a restructured school go?    
        • School leaders will come together to determine what is needed from each school to benefit the students and those items/programs will be incorporated into the new school.  

What steps are being taken to facilitate the transition of teachers into other Catholic schools?     
        • The Diocesan Human Resources Department and the Office of the Superintendent will be holding faculty and staff meetings at each school location to discuss with the employees the process for which they can apply and be rehired for the new school or placed on a transfer list for other schools.

What steps are being taken to facilitate the transition of students into other Catholic schools?
        • The Diocese of Bridgeport is committed to making sure each child currently enrolled will be able to continue receiving a Catholic education.
        • Children will be reassured through presence and actions that people care about them and will help them find their place in a new school. Parents are encouraged to speak to their children as they would with any other important matter impacting their child’s life. The principal and all of the teachers will speak to the students and will address the particular concerns of the children in an age-appropriate manner.

Will there be an effort to keep students from their existing schools together in next year’s classes?
        • We are, at this point, anticipating 2 classes of each grade. There will be a blending of the students from the different schools into the new school structure.  

How will this affect class size? What is the maximum number of student in a class?
        • Many parents have expressed their appreciation that class sizes in some schools are very small. However this is not financially sustainable, nor does it guarantee higher academic achievement. So it is planned that the class sizes will grow to a number that is appropriate both educationally as well as financially. The Office of the Superintendent recommends class sizes of about 25 students per class.

With 2020 being 3 years away, why should families choose to stay? What will each year look like?
        • There is a specific plan in place and each year will see new pieces forming. To begin the 2017-18 school year, Grades PK-5 will be located at the St. Cecilia Campus and Grades 6-8 will still be at the Trinity Middle campus. During this time, construction will also be going on at Trinity Catholic High School to reconstruct the lower level of the building into a state-of-the-art Middle School. Phase 2 of the plan will begin in the 2018-19 school year with the 6th-8th Grades moving to the new location within the High School building. The lower grades will remain at the St. Cecilia campus while construction and renovations begin on the Trinity Middle School building. This process may take more time, so the estimated time for completion is September 2020. This building will become the new location for the PreK through 5th Grades and will be a flagship school for the Diocese within the City of Stamford.

How will this affect tuition?
        • The tuition rates will not change for the 2017-2018 School Year. The elementary grades K-5 will remain at $6,580 and the middle school grades 6-8 will remain at $7,200. The one change will be that the Registration Fee will be reduced to $200 and that rate will be per family, not per child.

How will this affect school uniforms?     
        • To ease the financial burden of the transition, the school uniform will be a simple one to start; Khaki pants and skirt with a solid color polo, and can be easily purchased from a local store (like Khols or Target) or from an online uniform company. The selection of an official school uniform will be decided upon by the Board of Directors and school administration for the future.

How will this affect my child’s transportation to/from school?
        • There are no major changes planned. Busing will still be available to students who reside in the City of Stamford.  

How will this affect the before/after school program?
        •  After the official start and end times for the school are established, Before and/or After School programs will be planned to best meet the needs of the families.   

How will the new start/end time of the school day be determined?
        • This will be determined by the Board of Directors in consultation with the Office of the Superintendent. When making their decision, they will take into account the current time schedules of the schools and the distance that students are traveling.

What will the process of creating a new HSA board be like?
        • The process for the creation of a new HSA will be determined by the Board of Directors.

What will happen to funds raised by the HSA for this year?
        • The money raised for the current year will be used to fulfill the commitments of this year. If there are balances remaining, the money will be passed on the new HSA in the new school to be used for the upcoming school year.

Who are the Parent Ambassadors for my school and what does that mean?
        • The Parent Ambassadors are parents in the current schools who are volunteering their time to assist others during the transition process. They will help communicate the process of the implementation of the Stamford Catholic Schools strategic plan. They will also look for ways to create synergy and a sense of community across the Stamford Catholic school community. Parent Ambassadors will also be in contact with the Superintendent of Schools and communicate any common questions/concerns that may come up from parents.

How will safety and security in new school be addressed?
        • Our schools currently have safety and security plans put in place. These would continue with the new school.

How can current parents register for the new school?
        • Registration is open. There were registration forms available at the February 1st meeting and there are also hard-copies available at each of the schools. You can also download a form from the website http://www.catholicschoolsstamford.org

Are there plans to have social events prior to beginning of the school year?
        • Yes. To help bring the schools together and offer the students the opportunity to meet each other, there are at least a few events in the planning stages. One is a Spring Concert in which all of the schools will come together on one occasion to perform. There will also be Open Houses planned at both campuses. As we get closer to the start of the school year, there will be a Picnic or BBQ organized so that students and families can meet each other.

What will happen in school from now until the closing in June?
        • The school year will continue as planned. In a school that is to be restructured, the spiritual, academic and social life of the school will continue as usual. Instruction will continue to be focused and challenging.  It is in the best interest of the students to stay where they are and complete the academic year with their classmates. Studies have shown that students do better completing the school year in their current school and transitioning to a new school at the start of the next academic year.

What is the future for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport?
        • Our goal is sustainable Catholic education for years to come. The Diocese of Bridgeport is committed to strengthening programs to continue to attract new students. Our Catholic schools are known for being faith-filled centers for student development, for 21st century teaching and for producing graduates who are prepared to be leaders in their community and the world.

Is there a place to find more detailed information?
        • Absolutely. We have set up a hotline for anyone to call in and have their specific questions answered. The number is 203-209-2894. If you do not reach a person on your first attempt, feel free to leave a message with your name and phone number and someone will call you back as soon as possible.  We have also designed a website for families who want more information. There you can find information about the new school as well as a registration link. The web address is www.catholicschoolsstamford.org