TAUNTON — In a move to provide students with more opportunities and resources for their Catholic education, Coyle and Cassidy High School in Taunton and Taunton Catholic Middle School will join together to become one school, serving grades 6 through 12, beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.
The school will utilize the facilities of the Coyle and Cassidy campus to house both the high school and middle school divisions with each located in separate parts of the building and each having its own entrance. Both the high school and middle school divisions will maintain their own academic and co-curricular programs; yet each will benefit from new learning opportunities that will become available by the schools joining as one.
For example, a seamless and integrated 6-12 curriculum will be offered, allowing college prep education to begin earlier. Middle school students who are qualified and have parental permission will be able to participate in high school level courses and activities that are currently not available to them. These could range from advanced mathematics and language classes to participation in additional arts and athletic programs. Later, in their high school years, these students will be qualified to take additional college level courses because of the advanced opportunities they received in middle school.
Grade 5 will no longer be offered as part of middle school education; it is already offered at both Catholic elementary schools in Taunton, Our Lady of Lourdes School and St. Mary’s Primary School.
Fall River Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Griffin this week announced the plan to join the schools, which was approved by Bishop George W. Coleman.
The decision to unify the two educational institutions in Taunton follows several months of study involving school administrators from the city’s four Catholic schools; pastors; a strategic planning committee comprised of Coyle and Cassidy and Taunton Catholic Middle School parents, faculty and advisory board members; and a meeting with parents in February during which they were invited to share their perspectives and concerns either that evening or by e-mail throughout the next week.
At a subsequent meeting of the strategic planning committee, it was the unanimous recommendation of committee members that the schools unify.
“Following this study, it was clear that the path to offering quality Catholic education, grounded in strong academics and an environment of faith and values enabling the fullest growth of our grades 6-12 students, was to unite these two schools together as two divisions of one school,” Superintendent Griffin explained.
The joining of middle and high schools is a growing trend in Catholic education and is a model already in place in some 40 private schools, Catholic and otherwise-sponsored, in Massachusetts. It has already been implemented in another area in the Fall River Diocese. Last September, Pope John Paul II High School and the St. Francis Xavier (grades 5-8) Preparatory School opened as one educational entity in Hyannis.
There are only five stand-alone private middle schools in Massachusetts, and other private high schools are introducing middle school divisions.
Plans for the unification of Coyle and Cassidy High and Taunton Catholic Middle call for the middle school division to use classrooms in the north end of the high school building, separate from but in close proximity to the library, science labs and Fine Arts Center. The middle school will also have its own separate entrance. The high school division will primarily use the south end of the building and also likely the nearby Holy Rosary Parish Center for some senior seminar courses.
A two-tiered tuition structure will be implemented and any tuition increases will be similar to those of previous years.
In the area of governance, one administration will oversee the operation of the combined school as a diocesan school under the supervision of the Diocesan Catholic Schools Office as both schools are now. Current Coyle and Cassidy President Dr. Mary Patricia Tranter will be head of the combined school, keeping the title of President. Current Coyle and Cassidy Principal Robert Gay will retire at the end of the current academic year. Current Coyle and Cassidy Vice-Principal for Academics Kathleen St. Laurent will become Principal of the whole school. Current Taunton Catholic Middle School Principal Dr. Corinne Merritt will become Vice Principal for Academic Affairs Middle School Division.
School administration will also include Marie Angeley as Vice Principal for Student Affairs and Michael O’Brien as Assistant Vice Principal for Student Affairs and Athletics Middle School Division. Mr. Daniel Thompson will continue as Middle School Counselor, and Mr. Thomas Pileski as the high school Athletic Director.
Planning for the unification of the schools will continue in the months ahead, and beginning in mid-March a series of parent meetings and school open houses will take place. Current Taunton Catholic Middle School students will be given a tour of the Coyle and Cassidy building as well.
It is anticipated that the current Taunton Catholic Middle School building would continue to be used for the area CYO program and perhaps as additional space for athletics for the high school or middle school divisions.
Looking forward, Dr. Griffin pointed out that additional benefits will also come about from unification of the schools in marketing and advancement efforts, expanded profession development for staff, facility maintenance, and coordinated financial and strategic planning.
“Overall, the joining of the two schools will provide a stronger financial foundation for the future, maintaining and growing the traditions of excellence that have characterized these schools,” he said.