SHELTON—Two years ago, limited enrollment forced the merger of St. Lawrence and St. Joseph’s schools in Shelton and St. Jude School in Monroe as the Roman Catholic Diocese fought to maintain its private school presence in the area.
The newly consolidated school — Holy Trinity Catholic Academy — struggled in its inaugural year, but the guidance of Lisa Lanni and her staff has helped to bring stability to the fledgling facility.
“We are alive … we are vibrant,” said Lanni in describing the school this past year, her first with Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, a pre-K through eighth grade school housed at St. Lawrence Church.
“It has been a great year,” added Lanni. “I came into a place where the parents are very loyal, dedicated and want only the best for their children. I have a group of seasoned teachers who are excellent role models, both in the academic world and the faith-based world.”
Lanni said that the initial consolidation left some families upset, and that anxiety carried over into year one, which prompted many to leave for other educational institutions — either private or public. So the longtime educator said her primary role coming in was re-educational stability as well as better communication between families and school leadership.
“There were a lot of hurt feelings as a result of the merger,” said Lanni. “Many families left because they were disappointed. But we have started that process of rebuilding, and we just need to get the word out. We are telling families, ‘What you wanted has occurred, just not in the first year.’ We can only get bigger and better. We will be the school of choice in this area.”
Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, which celebrated the graduation of 16 eighth-graders last week, presently has 179 students, but Lanni said her ideal enrollment would be 275 students.
To get to that enrollment total, Lanni said the school has become one of six schools of Diocese of Bridgeport to use the Personalized Learning Initiative — a program which designs the lesson plan to the needs of each student using technology and data.
Lanni said students take a series of tests — Edmentum Progress Monitoring Tests — three times during the school year, and the results are used to develop a “learning path for each student by pinpointing each students’ strengths and weaknesses.” Lanni said the school is 1-to-1, meaning a Chromebook for each student.
“We also use a station rotation model for math and English Language Arts students,” said Lanni. “Students are broken into small groups, and they rotate through various activities in the classroom for learning in math and ELA. It is student-driven.”
Lanni said her staff focuses on individualized learning and relationship building with the students. And the instructors take pride in the improvement of the technology program, which Lanni called one of the best in the area.
“We know the kids,” said Lanni. “They are not just little people in a classroom. We know the kids, we know the parents, the families. The relationships are what really drive the sustainability of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy.”
Lanni said while the educational offerings have improved, the religious instruction remains at the foundation of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy.
“We needed to stabilize the academics by improving what we were already doing but in a more consistent fashion,” said Lanni. “But our other priority is maintaining our Catholic identity. It was there in the school, but really left to the teachers in their individual rooms. We needed to create school-wide Catholic identity, which we have done with the help of an incredible staff.”
Lanni also credited the parent organization for helping with fund-raising activities, which focus more on bringing families together while also raising money in the process.
While academic improvements have been enjoyed, so, too, has athletic success, with several age groups capturing titles during the winter basketball season. Lanni also promoted the track and field squad, which held its meet just prior to the school year’s end.
Students also celebrated field day to close out the year, said Lanni, which she said was important to note because it was driven by the student council, which is in its first year of existence. Students also spent Friday, June 7, outside on the street cheering on the police during the Special Olympics torch run — just another event that brings the school community together.
“School needs to be about memories,” said Lanni. “Reading, writing, arithmetic — that learning can happen wherever students go to school in some shape or form. But it is all the extras that make us who we are. Kids should be able to look back and say I would do it all again if I could. That happens here now. Holy Trinity is home.”
By Brian Gioiele | Shelton Herald