Two storied Taunton schools easily transition into one, successful institution of learning

By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor

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TAUNTON, Mass. — The examples can be found in living organisms, including mankind; and the business world; sports; music; and even religion.

The concept is that of change. There’s a theory in science that calls it the “survival of the fittest,” or “that survives which best adapts for survival.” Times change and in order for people, places and things to keep up with the change, they too must change.

It was that mind-set and forethought that brought together two storied Taunton Catholic institutions of learning to form a stronger source of eduction and Spiritual development for local students.

Beginning with the current academic year that kicked-off last month, Coyle and Cassidy High School and Taunton Catholic Middle School joined forces to become one, Coyle and Cassidy Middle School and High School Divisions.

Perhaps one of the areas of most concern with the joining of high school-aged and middle school-aged students was how each age group would react and adapt to the change. 

“There is a new energy in the building,” Principal Kathy St. Laurent told The Anchor.

That building is the high school building which experienced extensive renovations and upgrades to accommodate the increased student population. “The younger students bring an enthusiasm and energy and the high school students have assumed a ‘big brother/big sister’ role,” St. Laurent added. “I’m proud of both groups.”

St. Laurent also told The Anchor that the parents and faculty have made the transition in a near seamless fashion.

“The parents have been wonderful,” she said. “They have been very supportive and their input is very important and we have received many positive responses from them. We also listen to their concerns and address them as quickly as possible.

“The faculties from the middle school and high school have done a wonderful job. We began meeting last spring to get to know one another and plan for our new school. We ended the year with a combined week of planning and a Liturgy of thanksgiving. Over the summer, the middle school staff was frequently here setting up classrooms. We continue to meet as one faculty and separately as needed.”

The high school building on Hamilton Street was a beehive of activity this past summer. Classrooms in the lower level of the school were refurbished; lockers added; rooms painted; and an improved ventilation system and new flooring were added.

Middle school athletic lockers were brought in and the main entrance was enlarged and an improved strategy for student flow throughout the day was developed.

Not overlooked in all the preparation was the ever-critical security system. Security cameras allow office staff to buzz-in those wishing to enter the building, and separate pick-up and drop-off points were created for each age group. There are also separate rest room facilities for each school group.

The school library is now manned by a full-time staff and extensive renovations took place.

Some seniors also get to stretch their legs and hike over to the former Holy Rosary parish center for selected classes. “This creates a ‘pre-college’ experience for the seniors,” said St. Laurent.

There, too, is a security camera “buzz-in” system. Classrooms were refurbished and the faculty has access to wireless Internet and computer connections.

It didn’t take long for the combined student populations to become one Coyle and Cassidy family. “Many of our community service students are working with middle school classes,” St. Laurent told The Anchor. “It’s important for both groups of students to have their own experience and so we try to be sure to give them that. It’s also important to come together as a community from time to time. 

“For example, our opening school Liturgy was amazing. The combined chorus of the middle and high school students was a true testament to the unity of our new community.  We recently had our fall sports rally. The middle school students celebrated with the middle school athletes and then joined the high school rally so that we could do the school cheer and song together.”

The success of the joint venture did not come without hard work, planning and cooperation. “Communication has been key,” added St. Laurent. “Throughout the summer, the administration met weekly to plan, evaluate and implement all of the changes that had to take place in order to have a smooth opening of school. These meetings have continued on a weekly basis. It is really important for all of our constituencies to have a voice in their school. 

“Parents receive a weekly newsletter outlining events, activities and points of interest for middle and high school students. We have ongoing faculty advisory groups as well as student groups in order to be sure that there is open and ongoing communication. We have an amazing administrative team, faculty and staff.”

Coyle and Cassidy High School’s history is another example of changing with the times. The once-St. Mary’s High School for girls that became Bishop Cassidy High School when it moved to a new, modern building in the early 60s, joined forces with the boys’ Msgr. Coyle High School in 1971 to become Coyle and Cassidy.

Also in 1971, the Diocese of Fall River created a new Taunton Catholic Middle School, gathering its student body from the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from the then-seven Catholic schools in the Taunton area.

Both instances of change were the results of changing demographics, student populations and the need to modernize.

More than four decades later both schools have again experienced a metamorphosis prompted by the need to change with the times. And again, both schools have experienced success at the new venture.

“We are very grateful to the Superintendent Dr. Michael Griffin and Assistant Superintendents Dr. Donna Boyle and Louise Kane, for their support and confidence in us,” said St. Laurent. “This is really a new beginning and a very exciting opportunity to continue the long tradition of providing Catholic education in the city of Taunton.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to be the principal of our school! What an experience. It is a busy time and every day is different. I am enjoying it very much.”

And by the looks of it, so are the students and faculty of Coyle and Cassidy High School and Middle School Divisions.

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts