By Elizabeth Lowe
When Tom Peri walked into Notre Dame Preparatory School for a job interview more than a decade ago, he was impressed by student art hanging on the walls throughout the building.
The Towson school “values student contributions to the community,” said Peri, a NDP biology teacher and veteran educator.
“The girls make this place a wonderful place to teach,” he said. “I consider this teacher heaven.”
NDP is celebrating its second National Blue Ribbon, which it previously received in 1984-85. An independent all-girls school sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, it has 734 students in grades 6-12.
NDP is “rooted in tradition, contemporary in education,” School Sister Patricia McCarron said. “The world is changing quickly and our job is to educate the women of tomorrow.”
Sister Patricia said NDP received the Blue Ribbon distinction because of the quality of its curriculum and programs; motivated students engaged in the learning process; teachers committed to empowering students; and alumnae and parental support.
“It’s the perfect recipe,” Sister Patricia said. “To say you are one of the top in the entire country, that’s not one specific program, one specific teacher.”
Of the school’s 90 faculty members, 82 percent have at least a master’s degree. Continuing education for faculty is a priority, said Laurie Jones, principal of the school for six years, who added “we need to be continuous learners.”
Senior Erin Cain said teachers go above and beyond to accommodate students.
“They’re all so available when you need help,” said Cain, who added NDP has “given me a really solid background. It makes me ready to face the challenges of the world.”
With a 9:1 student-faculty ratio, NDP has 16-18 students in classes.
On average, NDP students earned higher marks than students from Maryland and the U.S. on the reading, math and writing sections of the SAT in 2012.
NDP students scored an average of 615, 606 and 633 on the reading, math and writing sections, respectively, 100 points higher than their peers. Scores are reported on a scale from 200 to 800.
The school offers 18 Advanced Placement and science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) courses.
In 2012, 152 juniors and seniors took 303 AP exams. Of the exams taken, 93 percent scored a three or higher and 63 percent scored a four or five, the highest mark possible.
“We work with their (students’) abilities and build on their gifts,” Jones said.
Since 2008, NDP has had eight National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and five finalists.
All students continue their education in college.
NDP’s humanities program for sophomores, juniors and seniors is interdisciplinary; two instructors from various departments team teach discussion-style courses.
It is the outgrowth “of people who sat down and asked themselves how students best learn,” said Marianne Reichelt, NDP’s English department chairwoman and an educator for 40 years. “This is all about connection.”
Reichelt said NDP has “rich opportunities,” which include 14 interscholastic sports, 42 middle and high school clubs and organizations and other activities through honor societies and service opportunities.
“Adolescence should be a time for exploring,” Reichelt said, “dip their toes into a variety of programs and see what they love. We make it possible to learn her way.”
Cain, a member of the school’s cross country team, plans to attend a nearly weeklong service trip to Mississippi this spring.
Junior Jane Lorenzi has volunteered with Camp Umoja, a summer day camp at NDP for children ages 6-11 who live in Baltimore City public housing. Since 1985, participants enjoy swimming lessons, arts and crafts and tutoring. Counselors are from NDP and area all-boys schools.
“You feel connected to the Baltimore community,” said Lorenzi, another member of the cross country team.
NDP counts more than 6,000 living alumnae. The school’s mission – “where girls become women who transform the world” – is the driving force,” said School Sister of Notre Dame Patricia McCarron, in her eighth year as NDP’s headmistress.
At a September surprise assembly to celebrate their recognition, NDP students and staff affixed blue ribbons to their clothes and enjoyed Almond Joys – candies wrapped in blue to symbolize the occasion.
The award recognizes “the excellence of today,” Sister Patricia said. “That excellence will continue as it has for the last 139 years. It will continue long into the next century.”
She added, “We educate young women to transform the world. That’s alive and well and has been and will continue to be. As grateful as we are for our past and excited as we are in the present, we are hopeful, committed and energized by the possibilities for the future.”
NDP AT A GLANCE
PRINCIPAL: Laurie Jones
HEADMISTRESS: School Sister of Notre Dame Patricia McCarron
ENROLLMENT: 734 in grades 6-12
TRADITIONS: Egg Drop contest, Gym Meet and Stone Soup Day
OUTREACH: Service and social justice are hallmarks, including Camp Umoja, a summer day camp at NDP for children ages 6-11 who live in Baltimore City public housing.
DID YOU KNOW: NDP has been at its current location since 1960; students live in nearly 70 different ZIP codes across Maryland and southern Pennsylvania; 100 percent of students continue their education post-graduation.
Copyright (c) Jan. 23, 2013 CatholicReview.org