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."