St. Mary School is a Catholic elementary school, under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Hartford, serving Milford and surrounding towns since 1961.
In 1960, the pastor of St Mary Parish, the late Rev. Joseph F Collonan, responded to the needs of the Catholic population of the City of Milford by initiating the building of St. Mary School. Within a year, an eighteen-room school building was constructed. After securing the services of the Sisters of Mercy and providing a Convent for them, St. Mary School opened in September 1961 with 252 students enrolled in Grade 1-3. Each succeeding year saw the addition of an advanced grade until 1966, when the school was a fully functioning Grade 1 through 8 school that graduated its first class in June, 1967. Later, the school added a Kindergarten class.
How Saint Mary School Developed
During 1970’s, a part-time physical education teacher was added to the staff. In 1986, an art teacher was hired for the first time and a music teacher in 1987. Responding to the needs of the parents of our community, the late 1980’s saw the addition of a preschool program. An extended day after school program was established during the same time to help of working parents. Reflecting the need to teach students the technological skills they would need in the 21st century, a computer teacher was added to the staff in the 1990’s. In 1996, the kindergarten program became full day. In 2004 a Child Study Consultant was added to the staff to help classroom teachers with teaching strategies necessary to help individuals experiencing difficulties. In 2007 a full day option for our four year old preschoolers was added. At present, grade 6 through 8 are departmentalized to utilize the expertise of the teachers and to better prepare the students for high school.
In the area of technology, the entire building was wired and connected to the internet in 2003. In the summer of 2007, a state of the art computer lab and server were installed. This enabled the entire staff to communicate by email, thus improving teacher/parent communication. By 2009 all classrooms were equipped with new computers and the school began to fully implement electronic grade books for the teachers and electronic report cards. Also in 2007, the school contracted to use University Program (name changed to “Global Academics” in 2009) to provide ongoing teacher inservice in the area of technology integration.
Foreign Language was first introduced in the school in 1996 when the eighth graders began taking Latin. Spanish was incorporated in the primary grades in 2001 and extended to Grade 7 in 2004 and Grade 8 in 2011. Math classes in grades 7 and 8 will be grouped by ability with some in each grade taking pre-algebra and some taking algebra. Literature is taught to the advanced Language Art students in grades 7 and 8. Although a Science Room was in place, it was improved in 2000 with plumbing and increased electrical access. Lab tables and equipment were also provided to give opportunities for students to do experiments, dissections and other hands-on activities. St. Mary School has consistently adapted and updated its curriculum and program to meet the needs of its students and community following the guidance provided by the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools. In 2007, the school began to utilize the new curriculum guidelines of the archdiocese, including criterion and referenced based assessment.
Saint Mary School Today
Over the years there has also been an expansion in the school’s offering of extracurricular activities and intramural sports. The gymnasium floor was replaced with new state of the art flooring and other improvements to the plant have been made to enhance such activities. Smartboards are in every classroom, iPads were purchased for use in the preschool and lower grades, and Chromebooks are now used in the upper grades. Another noteworthy addition is the vast expansion of our preschool program with the largest class ever graduating in 2017. Our website relaunch in May 2012 made all of this information available, and subsequent relaunches make it even more user friendly. Finally, we have a very strong presence on social media with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Over the years staffing has changed from a school completely staffed by Religious to, in 1995, a school completely staffed by the laity, including a lay principal in 1991. The teaching staff today includes 37 teachers, 19 of which are full time. There are also 18 part time paraprofessionals, working mostly in the primary areas. The Convent, where the Sisters once resided, is now used as our preschool. Today the preschool has many class choices including a full and part day options for 3 & 4 year olds. We now have a full time Learning Resource Teacher to screen and/or help a student who is experiencing some type of difficulty. A full time nurse is also provided by the Milford Health Department.
Early in its history, the students of St. Mary were provided the option of hot lunch by volunteer parents of the Home School Association. By 2004 an outside caterer was contracted to prepare daily meals. In 2012 online ordering was introduced, and meals are provided by local restaurants & served by parent volunteers.
Parents play an important role at St. Mary School. Through an active and vibrant Home and School Association, parents volunteer in countless ways such as interscholastic sports, scout leaders, room moms and for many other fundraising and school events. In the area of fundraising, the H.S.A. currently raises over $110,000 yearly to help offset the cost of tuition.
Security is constantly being improved here on campus. Under the guidance of the Milford Police and Fire Departments, our school works vigorously to keep maintain a safe learning environment. New locks, closed circuit television, use of two way radios, practice drills, and ongoing training are just some of the steps being taken. All doors are locked during school hours with a call box and video surveillance. All staff must wear identification and use pass keys, while visitors must sign in and wear security badges.
The Development Committee of St. Mary School initiated an Annual Fund in 1998 to offset expenses and fund enrichment programs. More recently referred to as Advancement, this included special gift giving, auctions and the revitalization of the school database to include alumni, former parents, benefactors and other friends of the school. An endowment fund has now been established.
In 2013 a Marketing and Advancement Director, now known as the Director of Marketing and Enrollment Management was hired part time and since then, enrollment has increased every year with 2017-18 welcoming the largest student body in approximately 15 years.
In 2009, the Archdiocese of Hartford, through a grant from a generous patron, contracted Catholic Alumni Partnership to work with our school. By 2010, through CAP, we have been able to update our alumni data base and greatly improve our communication with and identification of alumni and other potential donors.
In 2010, the Finance Council of St. Mary Parish began to work closely with the Board’s Budget Committee in order to ensure that sound business and financial practices were being employed, ensure that those practices were in line with Archdiocesan Chancery and Office of Catholic Schools policies and procedures, and make recommendations to Principal and Pastor as to how those practices can be strengthened. The secondary, but perhaps equally important bi-product of this new relationship will be to strengthen the bond between the school and parish.