Southern Ohio has had its fair share of economic and social difficulties of late. The population is declining and a large percentage of residents are living below the poverty line, there is an overall downward trend in job creation and salary levels, while crime statistics are rising. However, a small private Catholic school system is going against this trend and even flourishing as its enrollment and positive effect on the community grows.
The Notre Dame Schools are a private Catholic school system located in Portsmouth, Ohio, and unlike other private and even other faith-based schools in the area and contrary to any assumptions based on demographics, Notre Dame is thriving.
The Notre Dame Schools were founded in 1852 as Holy Redeemer School and St. Mary’s School, part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, and are comprised of a preschool, elementary, junior high and high school, contained in two buildings located in a quiet suburban area just northeast of downtown Portsmouth. The schools have been providing an educational program in a Catholic environment for students of Scioto County and the surrounding areas since their founding.
Development Director Patty Tennant and Assistant Development Director Andrew Mader are particularly proud of the schools’ academic success. Test scores at both the elementary and high school levels have been consistently above the national average. Almost 95 percent of graduates go on to further their education, and this is no surprise, as Notre Dame’s academic program is specifically designed to equip students with the fundamental skills and habits necessary for success in universities and colleges. In 2012, 24 seniors were offered more than $1 million in college scholarships. The elementary school and junior high won Quiz Bowl and the high school finished third.
The environment created by the faculty and staff at Notre Dame is one that encourages scholastic and personal growth. The teacher to student classroom ratio is approximately 20:1, encouraging students to participate in classroom activities and allowing teachers to give their students the personal attention they need to excel and grow as individuals.
Technology plays an integral role in the academic achievements of Notre Dame students. The classrooms use Smart Boards, which allow students to use iPads distributed to them at the beginning of the day to participate more fully in their learning experiences. Every personal computer in both schools is fully wireless and new as of this year. Mader noted the importance of keeping technologically up-to-date and giving students opportunities to use these tools to interact with their teachers and peers.
All students are required to engage in some sort of voluntary service-learning during their years at the school, contributing to 1,200 hours of service per year. Performing this service is considered by faculty and staff to be as important as academic performance, as service work is a keystone of the spiritual philosophy of the school and the Roman Catholic faith. “It’s not the things you do just at Christmas; it’s the Christmas things you do throughout the year that make a difference,” explained Mader. Some examples of the types of services performed by students are volunteering at the Southern Ohio Medical Center and Hillview Retirement Center, working in the school cafeteria, and participating in school charity fundraisers. This past year, students participated in a food drive and collected over 10,000 nonperishable items that were distributed to a number of local food pantries. They also participated in the St. Jude Math-a-Thon, a program that entails gathering pledges based on the number of math problems they can complete correctly in a special booklet, with the resulting funds going to aid cancer patients and their families. Notre Dame prides itself on fundraising for families in need in their own community.
Tennant also stressed the importance of extra-curricular activities in student life at the Notre Dame schools. Some noteworthy activities include the Key Club, the Drama Club, the Ohio Model United Nations, and the very successful sports teams. This past academic year, the girl’s swim team won the county championship, and the softball team won the Southern Ohio Conference (SOC) championship. The SOC baseball Player of the Year is Notre Dame’s Michael Mader and the SOC softball player of the year is Tori Harr. Girl’s basketball SOC Coach of the Year went to J.D. McKenzie and boy’s basketball SOC Coach of the Year went to Matt Mader.
Ultimately, both Tennant and Mader believe that the success of the Notre Dame schools is due largely to the spiritual foundation provided by the Roman Catholic Church and the strong tradition that Catholic schools have regarding family and community. The communal atmosphere is most obvious when families and students are facing adversity, but is also present on a daily basis. Alumni of the schools traditionally send their children to Notre Dame because they see this type of education as an investment in their children’s futures and in the region itself.
The community also supports Notre Dame via private donation or fundraising activities such as the Bid Your Heart Out Auction, an extravaganza of dancing, dinner, a silent auction, and a grand auction held annually in February. Only 350 tickets are sold per year, so if you are interested, please contact the school early, tickets typically sell out quickly.
Admission to the Notre Dame schools is open to students of all faiths and beliefs. Financial assistance in the forms of grants, funds and scholarships are available to every student and are not necessarily income-based. Potential students and their parents are welcome to schedule a tour, sit in on classes, or attend one of the two open houses that are held during the school year, but inquiries regarding student and academic life are warmly encouraged any time of year. For further information, check out the following sources:
The Notre Dame Schools
2220 Sunrise Ave.
Portsmouth, OH 45662
Patty Tennant, Development Director: email@example.com
Andrew Mader, Assistant Development Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
CELEBRATING THE PAST, EMBRACING THE FUTURE
Photos compliments of The Notre Dame Schools