Notre Dame Prep
The U.S. Department of Education’s annual list of National Blue Ribbon Schools honors overall academic excellence among the country’s public and private elementary, middle and high schools. It’s an impressive recognition, but for Sister Patricia McCarron, SSND, Ph.D., headmistress of Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP), a Catholic, all-girls, 6th-12th day school in Towson, it acknowledges much more than curriculum.
“For 147 years, Notre Dame Prep has, in the spirit of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, educated young women to transform the world,” Sr. Patricia says. “Being named a National Blue Ribbon School is external validation of what we’ve known internally and have demonstrated year after year, namely academic excellence, spiritual growth and the practice of justice.”
Only 367 schools were selected for the honor in 2020-2021, and NDP, which made the list first in 1984 and then again in 2012, is one of only 50 non-public schools on the list. It’s the only Catholic school in Baltimore’s Archdiocese and the only Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) school in the Baltimore area selected. “We’re responding to the needs of the times and the future, while remaining true to the core of our academic tradition,” explains Sr. Patricia, citing NDP’s STEAM (Science/Technology/Engineering/ Art/Math) program with certificates in medicine, architecture, computer programming and engineering and the school’s Bette Ellis O’Conor Humanities Program.
This year, she notes, is particularly fitting to receive national recognition. Last January, NDP opened its new Jane Kroh Satterfield Innovation Wing, expanding its STEAM facilities and opportunities. The facility includes an engineering fabrication lab, cyber classrooms, art studios, an architecture/design studio, gallery space, classrooms and office space for NDP’s Women in (WIN) Internship summer internship program. The Satterfield Innovation Wing also houses another distinction: the new medical suite has a full-size Anatomage Table, a virtual, 3D, life-size teaching tool of the human body. “We’re one of a few girls’ schools in the country to have this,” Sr. Patricia proudly adds. “We’ve had the curriculum, but now we have the facilities to help our students explore their passions.”
The virtual Anatomage Table in NDP’s medical suite, a high-tech teaching space in the new Jane Kroh Satterfield Innovation Wing.
During COVID-19, NDP has adapted its program and traditions to meet today’s challenges. “We’ve been integrating technology into our curriculum for years and were ready on day one last March to deliver an excellent remote academic experience,” she says. Earlier this month, the middle school returned to in-person learning, while the 600-student high school has a hybrid model with remote learning and different groups of students alternating in-person learning.
This fall, the school is hosting pandemic-protocol versions of its traditions, including the freshman retreat and community service. “It’s taken everyone’s gifts to make this happen, but we are a strong faith community and help each other to do whatever it takes to reimagine our traditions as the times demand it,” Sr. Patricia adds. During the recent Gateway Ceremony, the Class of 2024 walked through the NDP arch – masked and six feet apart – to begin its high school journey. This year, though, there was a new twist: they brought donations for Catholic Charities’ Our Daily Bread program to help address the pandemic’s increased need for food to serve those in need in Baltimore.
Class of 2024 collected food for Our Daily Bread at this year’s Gateway Ceremony.
On November 12-13, there’s another tradition with a COVID element in which Sr. Patricia is looking forward to participating: the annual National Blue Ribbon School award ceremony in Washington, D.C., which is now virtual.