In February 2009, the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis began an intentional and comprehensive self-examination. The fruit of this work was the Strategic Plan announced by Archbishop Nienstedt in October 2010, the main goal of which is “a revitalized and sustainable local Church, responsive to the needs of all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
An important part of the planning process was our Catholic schools, which play an important role in the mission of the Church. The strategic plan called for an evaluation of our schools, focusing on the areas of Catholic Identity, governance, educational excellence, advancement, and funding.
As part of this evaluation of our schools, the leadership of St. Mary of the Lake and St. Pius X, along with representatives of the Archdiocese and experts in finance and demographics, began discussions to strengthen and grow Catholic education in White Bear Lake and the surrounding region. Based on these discussions, the decision was made to consolidate the schools of St. Mary of the Lake and St. Pius X into a regional Catholic school for the White Bear Lake area. The goals were to stabilize enrollment while maintaining healthy class sizes, maximize parish and parental investment in our schools, and combine the resources and traditions of two great Catholic schools and two faith-filled parishes to strengthen Catholic education in our community for the next generation of families.
Once the decision to create a regional school was announced in January 2013, the exciting work of forming that school began. Parents, parishioners and staff from both communities generously volunteered to work on committees that developed policies and procedures for the new school.
Several important decisions have been made during this year of preparation. The first decision was the site of the new school. After consultation with both schools’ principals, administrators, and trustees, and after reviewing an assessment of the facilities prepared by an independent consultant, the pastors chose the St. Mary of the Lake Parish Center as the home for the new school. The size, the recent addition of new classroom and physical education space, the remodeling of the existing space, and the location of the St. Mary of the Lake Parish Life Center makes it the better choice to best handle both an immediate and a long term growth in the numbers of students and provide students with the room and environment to be 21st century learners.
Since the new school is a new and separate corporation, another important decision was to choose a name for the school. After work in the parishes and in the committees, a list of possible names was submitted to Archbishop John Nienstedt. From that list, he chose Frassati Catholic Academy as the name for the new regional school (see below for a short history of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati).
Another important task was to clearly identify the mission of the school. Frassati Catholic Academy will be “dedicated to educating students in a nurturing environment grounded in the Catholic Tradition, inspiring a love of learning, and empowering students to grow in faith while sharing their gifts for the common good.”
A major program decision with that mission in mind was to adopt an educational strategy called STREAM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math.
The conversation about the STREAM program began back in August of 2013. The National Catholic Education Association initiated this learning model and a few STREAM schools have already been created across the country. The concept of STREAM grew out of the STEM and STEAM models in existence in public school systems, which have proven to be very effective models for integrated instruction.
Collaboration between organizations allowed Frassati Catholic Academy to bring the STREAM concept to White Bear Lake. We entered into partnership with St. Catherine University, which is the National Center for Elementary STEM Education and offers a nationally recognized STEM certification for teachers. This partnership ensures that our faculty and staff will receive the proper training to implement a new integrated approach to learning.
In addition, we are in partnership with the White Bear Center for the Arts to establish a quality art program. The plans include having local artists visit our school to teach units of art in their area of expertise. Our students will have the opportunity to learn from an artist that actually makes a living by producing art!
We received a grant of $100,000 from the GHR Foundation to make STREAM a reality at Frassati Catholic Academy. The grant money will be used for teacher training and materials.
With the creation of Frassati Catholic Academy, the parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake continue their 100 year commitment to Catholic education. In cooperation with the parishioners of St. Pius X, our new school builds on the rich traditions of two excellent Catholic schools as we seek to make the name of Jesus Christ known and loved.