Dr. Edward Gere, principal in Donovan Catholic, Toms River, receives an award recognizing the school’s International Baccalaureate World School Program from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. Father Michael Wallack, priest secretary to the Bishop, applauds at left. Craig Pittelli photo

Dr. Edward Gere, principal in Donovan Catholic, Toms River, receives an award recognizing the school’s International Baccalaureate World School Program from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. Father Michael Wallack, priest secretary to the Bishop, applauds at left. Craig Pittelli photo

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

The annual Catholic Schools Mass concluded on a congratulatory note Oct. 12 as Diocesan School Superintendent JoAnn Tier stepped forward to recognize two Catholic schools that received major recognition this year for scholarship, ingenuity and diligence.

Donovan Catholic, named a member of the International Baccalaureate World School Program, and Lincroft’s Christian Brothers Academy, tapped as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for the second time, were applauded as their principals, Dr. Edward Gere and Ross Fales, received tokens of esteem from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

In making the announcements, Tier noted that Donovan Catholic holds the distinction of being one of just 16 high schools in New Jersey and the only Catholic high school in the state, as well as the only IB World high school in Ocean County and the Trenton Diocese to enter the diploma program which is active in 147 countries.

The IB program is regarded as having a positive impact on students, schools and their wider communities with learning going well beyond the classroom. Its unique and innovative approach to learning means both students and teachers are connected to a network on the cutting edge of international education.

Reflecting on the honor at the time it was awarded, Dr. Gere told The Monitor it would offer students a “more holistic education which will instill in them the skills, knowledge and outlook to succeed in the 21st century both in their local community and the wider world.”

“At the same time,” Dr. Gere continued, “we wanted to give our teachers the opportunity to be a part of an international network of experts leading the field in education. We are delighted to become an IB World School and we look forward to reaping the many benefits of the program,” he said, noting that two of the benefits are the increased acceptance rates at the most competitive colleges and high achievement at the university level.

Based on its overall academic performance, Christian Brothers Academy was among 341 schools across the nation to be recognized this year as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in an announcement Sept. 28 by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

CBA was first awarded the distinction in 1983-84, the year private schools became eligible for education’s highest distinction for schools.

When the recognition was announced by the U.S. Department of Education, Christian Brother Frank Byrne, CBA president, and Fales shared their sentiments with The Monitor.

“Being recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School for excellence is certainly a great honor for Christian Brothers Academy,” Byrne was quoted as saying. He commended Fales and Associate Principal Sean Nunan for guiding CBA through the application process.

Receiving the honor for the second time, Brother Byrne said, not only verified CBA’s “longstanding commitment to the intellectual, spiritual and moral development of our students,” but affirmed “that Catholic schools across the country are doing a great job in education.”

Schools interested in applying for National Blue Ribbon School status must first qualify for producing standardized test averages that are in the 85th percentile of national school norms. Aside from the raw test scores, CBA was evaluated in a number of different areas including school history, educational philosophy, academic curriculum, instructional methods and assessments, school climate and culture, engagement with families and the community, and school leadership.

“It’s great to receive recognition for all the hard work our tremendous faculty dedicates to our students each and every day,” Fales said. “The performance and involvement of our young men and their teachers are what ultimately earned us this award.”

Now in its 35th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 8,500 public and private elementary, middle and high schools. Among the schools in the Diocese that have received the recognition are St. Ann School, Lawrenceville; St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft; St. Paul School, Princeton; St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square; Holy Cross School, Rumson; Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown, and St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach.