Trinity Hall: Rumson Moms' All-Girls High School is Becoming a Reality

Founders are looking at two potential sites for the school.

You may have heard a rumor going around that some folks are planning to open an all-girls high school here in Monmouth County. Well, residents Victoria Gmelich and Mairead Clifford want you to know, it's no rumor.

"We are opening September 2013. We are doing this," Gmelich said Monday when Patch caught up with her and Clifford.

With $5 million of seed money already raised, the pair of moms is poised to open the kind of school they remember fondly from their youth: one where girls are encouraged to focus on their education, become leaders and grow in faith.

The school will not be a Catholic school, like Red Bank Catholic, but will instead be in the Catholic tradition, which will include brothers and nuns on a board.

The women are quick to emphasize that their venture is not to aimed to siphon students from other parochial schools like RBC or Mater Dei.

"It's not for every girl," Clifford said, "but it should be an option for every girl. Just like CBA (Christian Brothers Academy) is for boys."

The school's mission statement:

Trinity Hall is an innovative, independent college-preparatory high school for young women, in the Catholic tradition. In a technology-rich learning environment, a superior faculty and a challenging interdisciplinary curricular program fosters leadership, respect, perseverance and faith. Unique and exciting co-curricular learning opportunities accommodate a diverse, yet a collectively passionate, creative and caring student body. These young women will be empowered to take risks, pursue personal passions, network globally and grow as learners — and as valued individuals.

Transplants from North Jersey and Long Island, Clifford is a graduate of Mt. Saint Dominic Academy and Gmelich a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, and both of their husbands also attended single sex high schools. In their hometowns, the women say, single sex, religious education for girls needs no explanation or defense, but the pair said that in Monmouth County, they are often called to defend it. You can read their argument for a girls-only school here.

When Gmelich and Clifford met in a playgroup more than a decade ago, they bonded over their shared past. Their all girls schools, they said, were empowering and relaxed with no stress of boy-girl interaction in class, or in the hallway.

"The focus is on learning, no distractions," Gmelich said. And, Clifford added, "The bonds (between classmates) were much stronger. It wouldn't completely eliminate the drama, but it did truly lessen it significantly. It was empowering because you were expected to do well, expected to participate."

Clifford says that in the same sex school, whether it is the chess team, student council or the swim team, it's "all girls in every leadership role."

It's the kind of experience, they said, that they wanted for their kids too.

So when Clifford first moved to Rumson, pregnant for the first time, and delivered one girl, then over the years two more, she said she realized, "There's nowhere for them to go."

With seven girls between the two women, they determined that it would be up to them to create that type of school. So in 2010 they hired a consultant and launched a feasibility study with 2,100 families participating. (View the study here.)

The results showed that in September 2013, Trinity Hall, as it will be named, can expect a founding class of about 79 girls, wearing school uniforms. Trinity's tuition will likely be in the mid to upper teens, the founders said.

This summer the founders will ask for a non-binding letter of intent from seventh grade girls who are interested in becoming the founding students. The pair intend to draw students of all socio-economic levels from all over Monmouth County, with financial aid available. Gmelich said she is hoping to build the diverse community at Trinity Hall.

In the near future Clifford and Gmelich expect to announce their choice for Head of School.

Then the fundraising push will be on to garner millions more to have what founders have estimated to be the start-up costs for the school, which will include facilities, faculty and equipment for technology-rich classrooms. Trinity Hall, founders say, will be a "highly academic, highly innovative college prep school for girls."

The founding families are pursuing two sites for the school, one is a building in the Oceanport section of Fort Monmouth and the other is land in Holmdel.

The faculty that Trinity hopes to hire includes a higher ratio of guidance counselors than is typical for the class size, Gmelich said: "One of our deliverables is we will place your girls in good schools."

"We realize this is not for everyone," Gmelich said, "But we want to deliver upon something that does not exist in this area."

Loren June 13, 2012 at 02:06 PM
The Avaya Site in Lincroft would be a great site for this school.
Jen June 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Love the Avaya site....really helps those of us who will also have kids at CBA.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Avaya site is a good idea, but it's in the approval process already for residential use and it's conforming for the zone. Though, the fight against that continues ...
Shannon K. Winning June 13, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I just spoke to the founders and they said they looked at the Avaya site at one point and liked it but the seller wouldn't subdivide and the asking price of $31 million was more than they wanted to spend on property.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 08:11 PM
The Avaya site is slated for several hundred residential units and has been for some time. It is at the Middletown Planning Board for approvals now. It is in conformance with current township zoning parameters. That's probably why there was no desire for subdivision. Thanks for doing the story on these enterprising Rumson ladies, Shannon!
Kathryn Ward Grabowy June 14, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Kudos, Mairead and Victoria! I graduated from IHA in Bergen County and my brother graduated from Don Bosco. I'm thrilled there will finally be an all girls Catholic school for Monmouth County. I seriously considered sending my three daughters to IHA but it wasnt feasible. While they got an excellent education at RFH, I wish they had had the benefit of same sex education!
Christine Burke Eskwitt July 11, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Wonderful that you are bringing this vision forward for all young women in the Monmouth Couty area.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »