Catholic Elementary Schools of Long Island are on the Rise as a Result of Morning Star Initiative


Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Rockville Centre have seen a spike in enrollment as a result of the Morning Star Initiative (, or MSI, led by the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s Department of Education, the Marianist Brothers, and the Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation. 

Launched in January 2020, MSI is a forward-looking plan to strengthen Long Island’s Catholic elementary schools by restoring a robustly Catholic culture, academic excellence, and fiscally sustainable schools. 

There are already achievements in this great partnership. Re-engagement of parents and focus on data driven instruction is making a difference. Since MSI was launched, Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Rockville Centre have seen strong results. Math and reading scores, for example, improved significantly during the 2020-2021 school year despite the challenges of distance learning. Moreover, elementary school enrollment increased slightly this year, the first year-over-year increase in Nursery through 8th grade enrollment in two decades.

Brother Thomas Cleary, chief revitalization officer for MSI and president of Chaminade High School (pictured, at left with Bishop Barres) attributed the success to the quick gathering and analysis of critical data to create a forward-thinking plan. Another key component is the hard work and diligence of principals in pivoting to remote learning within days of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Brother Tom also noted the enrollment increase comes from parent and community engagement. “We have been very available and transparent with the parents of the students, hosting meet and greets, informational Zoom sessions, and personal phone calls,” he said. “When we welcome a child to one of our Catholic elementary schools, we welcome the whole family.”  

“The Morning Star Initiative has presented many ideas to move our schools into the future,” said Patricia Ayers, principal of Trinity Regional School, East Northport. Principal Ayers highlighted the implementation of the i-Ready program in all elementary schools across the diocese. The program “has helped us tremendously during this first year back from remote instruction last fall.”

The i-Ready program was created by Curriculum Associates to help teachers gain insight regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their students and receive resources to reach all students, regardless of academic level. 

Trinity Regional serves six parishes covering a vast area on the North Shore. Through the utilization of the “I Am New” page and of the Calendly App on its school website, Trinity Regional has been able to schedule many in-person tours that enable parents to see all the school has to offer. 

At St. John Paul II Regional School in Riverhead, Principal Abbey Swiatkowski (pictured below), said the school “operates on the beliefs and teachings of St. John Paul II: faith, reason and service.”  Working from that framework, Swiatkowski believes that MSI “truly understands Catholic education and the vocation of the elementary school employees.”  

“The Morning Star team was able to provide St. John Paul II Regional with the guidance, the tools and resources to advance that goal even further,” said Swiatkowski.

The “Curriculum Lead” program was also instituted by MSI. Curriculum Lead is a project connecting teachers from across the diocese, strengthening the mission of education and enabling teachers to share classroom successes with each other. 

Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in Floral Park welcomed MSI. “The announcement of the Morning Star Initiative was very exciting in its conveyance of hope for, and commitment to, Catholic education on Long Island,” said Peg Augello, principal, Our Lady of Victory School (pictured, at left). Working with MSI has brought much fruit to the school community. The hard work, dedication and creativity is paying off.  “We realized an 11 percent increase in enrollment at OLV for the current school year,” said Augello.

Sister Kathryn Schlueter, principal of Our Lady of the Hamptons in Southampton (pictured, at left) has noted that the presence of a seasoned religious community (the Marianists) in MSI has had and will continue to have a positive influence on the growth and development of Catholic Schools on Long Island. 

Enrollment in Our Lady of the Hamptons reached maximum capacity this year with a waiting list for every grade. “Parents are the bedrock and foundation for spreading the good news about Catholic education,” said Sister Kathryn. 

Sister Kathryn also sees the dedication of neighboring parishes to spread the word about Our Lady of the Hamptons has resulted in increasing interest in the school.

Achievements from the joint effort of MSI and the Catholic elementary schools are found throughout the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Providing every child with a vibrant experience of the Christian faith and a vigorous education is desired by Long Island parents and fulfilled by the dedication of administrators and teachers inspired by MSI.

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