Celebrating Catholic Schools Week:Head of School Grace Cotter Regan Talks about the Success of St. Mary’s High School

January 28, 2016
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In coordination with Catholic Schools Week, St. Mary’s Head of School Grace Cotter Regan participated in an interview with the Lynn Journal.

  1. What is the current school enrollment in grades 6-12?

St. Mary’s aspires to be a school of 600-620 students. We have an aspirational enrollment plan which focuses on 500 high school students with 125 per class and 120 in the Marian division 6-8.  Our school enrollment is presently under 500.  Last year, we welcomed the largest freshmen class in 5 years and our goal to welcome a freshmen class of 125 again that this year.  Our admissions standards are selective and we are committed to building a class of academic talent, diverse interests and young men and women of talent and faith.  We also remain true to our core population in  Lynn and the 30 cities and towns we serve.

  1. Are applications up for the 2016-17 school year?

Applications are consistent for grade 9 and we have continued growth and interest in both the High School and the Marian Division. Catholic School data and demographics show applications and enrollment down as much as 10% across the Archdiocese of Boston.  We worked hard to build a strong class of 125 and our commitment to size and quality has been embraced by inquiries and applicants,  We have an integrated seven-year curriculum, so students who begin in the sixth will see differentiation as they go to the high school.  Students who join us in grade 9 will also see the mapping of our program.

  1. To what do you attribute the growth and success of the school?

This is my fourth year at St. Mary’s as Head of School.  The Board of Trustees and the  Academic Council worked with me to take a look at our entire school culture and we were fortunate to be able to participate in an 18 month Accreditation process which allowed us to examine our school and create a blueprint for success.   I am very data driven and committed to making strategic and conscientious decisions.  Parents entrust us with their children at St. Mary’s and they want to know what the yield on their investment will be. We have been mindful of staying true to our mission and the markets we serve.  We are not trying to be something else, but we want to be the best St. Mary’s we can be an that means differentiation and smart decisions on curriculum, accountability, rigor and cura personals.  The latter being the most important to our student development; we develop the whole person.  We are also mindful of the markets we serve and affordability is very important to us.  We are one of the least expensive Catholic High Schools, so conveying and marketing the value proposition is important.  As a parent of two boys who attended private Catholic high schools, St. Mary’s is a treasure offering an affordable price point with an educational and co-currciular value proposition.  99-100% of our students go on to four year programs at schools like Tufts University, Harvard University, Babson, Bentley, Merrimack, Providence, Salem State University, Mass College of Pharmacy, University of Alabama, Fairfield, UMASS Lowell, Boston, Amherst and Dartmouth, North Shore Community College, St. Anselm’s and beyond.

  1. What new programs have been added in recent years?

We have made many enhancements to our curriculum.  We have been a 1:1 school since 2013 and our students are on I-Pads.  Digital Citizenship is complicated and we have embraced a research based curriculum and we are introducing many new features to train our students on data and research based scholarship.  We move to a STEM curriculum in 2013 and introduced the PLTW (Project Lead the Way) curriculum.  Many of our faculty have enhanced their STEM skills by attending academic programs at WPI.  This year, we added a Mandarin option for language.  If a student has an interest in finance, business or economics, Mandarin is key.  We have mapped our curriculum which was a significant undertaking, but our faculty embraced the process.  We are working to expand our Guidance program and services. St. Mary’s invested in  Naviance, which is a robust and industry standard formation and Guidance and College Counseling tool to help our students discern their vocational paths and college search.  We also introduced an International Program to align with our goal of being a global and urban school in Lynn.  We welcomed 19 students from China, Vietnam and Brazil to our school.  St. Mary’s is a truly global and urban school and diversity at our school is organic.  A challenge for every school is unplugging in this digital edge and we are committed to teach our students how to communicate with conversation, creative writing, letter writing and service.

  1. What do you want to say about the continuing achievements of the St. Mary’s sports teams and hockey coach Mark Lee on the verge of his 400th career victory?

Athletic Director and Coach Jeff Newhall has assembled a quality athletic staff of talented men and women and he has brought the program to a new level.  The success of the teams and coverage is amazing with Coaches like Coach Newhall, Coach Jim Foley, Coach Mike D’Agostino, Coach Durgin hitting career milestones and teams winning Soccer North Finals, Football North Final  and state championships. It is remarkable when you look at the past five years and our athletic success with the Girls and Boys State Basketball titles, State Softball titles, Girls and Boys North Soccer Finals, Football North Final, CCL Boys Cross Country and the State Baseball title last year.  We have talent, but what is more impressive is that our coaches take these young men and women and shape them into a team that embodies sportsmanship, scholarship, teamwork and faith.  Many of our teams celebrate a weekly mass and fellowship before a game.  Mr. Newhall is all about sportsmanship and our student captains and leaders participate in a Leadership Summit each year. We are proud of all of our coaches and athletes as they truly embody our pillars for success: Catholic, Excellence, Integrity and Respect. We are also proud of our student, parent, faculty and alumni fans who always show up to show their Spartan Pride.

This week is special as we celebrate Coach Mark Lee as he will achieve a career milestone of 400 wins over his 30 year tenure at St. Mary.s  It is a storied week with Mark being an alumnus with a very successful hockey career as a player and coach, as well as being a life long Lynn resident and police officer.  The 2015-16 team is an exceptional group of young men on and off the ice and Mark and his coaches have worked to mold them into leaders and role models at St. Mary’s. Captains Conor Foley, Dante Maribito and Andrew Kreamer are true leaders and represent Spartan Pride.   I am actually picking up Mark’s parents tonight to go to the BC High-St. Mary’s game.  We will join  St. Mary’s alumnus, parent and Trustee Mike Reddy, whose late son Patrick’06 played for Coach Lee and is honored with his #88 shamrock logo on the team uniforms and at Connery rink.  My father Jim Cotter was an AD and Coach at BC High for close to 50 years and we were with him to celebrate every career milestone, so a nice surprise for Mark and what a moment for Mr. and Mrs. Lee and St. Mary’s!  If not tonight, we will celebrate over the next games against Austin and Fenwick.  We will also acknowledge our athletes, coaches and alumni at the second Varsity Club celebration in May.

Head of School Grace Cotter Regan

Head of School Grace Cotter Regan

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