‘A Milford gem:’ Saint Mary’s School celebrating 60 years

Saint Mary's School is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Pictured, along with Emily Nolan's first-grade class, is (from left) April Bryant, marketing/enrollment; Missy Dubin, assistant principal and Dominic Corraro, principal.

Saint Mary's School is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Pictured, along with Emily Nolan's first-grade class, is (from left) April Bryant, marketing/enrollment; Missy Dubin, assistant principal and Dominic Corraro, principal.

Saul Flores /Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — A staple of the city’s community for six decades, Saint Mary School continues to grow even in the face of a pandemic which has changed the face of education for districts across the state and country.

School Principal Dominic Corraro, also a deacon at the Archdiocese of Hartford, said the school remained open for a full daily schedule in 2020 - except for when all schools were shuttered because of mandates from Gov. Ned Lamont - which attracted those seeking a more stable, in-person educational experience for their children.

“Saint Mary School is a Milford gem,” Corraro said about the school located on Gulf Street. “This is a very special place in the community. Sixty years of Catholic education in any community is a gift of God. For 60 years, this community has been blessed with a school that brings gospel values, moral development, the message of Jesus and high academic standards to the entire Milford community.”

Corraro said the school followed all required COVID protocols.

“We did have our share of quarantines here and there and cases as time went on, but we were in session all year,” he added.

Because Saint Mary School was able to stay in session, Corraro said more than 100 new families joined the school this year - bringing enrollment to some 330 overall in pre-K through eighth grade.

“So many people are so impressed with what Saint Mary’s does,” Corraro said, “and the fact that we were in school all last year, the fact that we are remaining a traditional school with modern innovations like 21st century learning, is attracting many families. But we are still holding true to our foundations which are rooted in gospel values.

“The mantra of the school is live the message of Jesus, and you’ll see it everywhere throughout the building,” he added.

Corraro said Saint Mary School is one of the largest schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford. Currently, the pre-K to eighth-grade school has around 330 students.

The Rev. Joseph F Collonan, according to Corraro, initiated construction of the school in 1960 - his goal was to respond to the needs of the city’s Catholic population. Within a year, an 18-room school building was completed.

After securing the services of the Sisters of Mercy and providing a Convent for them, Saint Mary School opened in September 1961 with 252 students enrolled in grades 1 to 3. Each succeeding year saw the addition of an advanced grade until 1966, when the school was a fully functioning grade 1 through 8 school that graduated its first class in June 1967. Later, the school added a kindergarten class.

“The Sisters of Mercy, a religious order of nuns, founded the school in 1961 and ran it up until I believe the 1990s,” Corraro said.

Throughout the school's six decades, Corraro said staff has prioritized high academic learning.

“We’ve had high Iowa test scores, and even last year when most schools were not in session, we were in session full-time last year,” he said. “Everyone in our school was ahead two grades or more in every academic field, and this has been consistent in the school's history. Academically, we do much better than our public school counterparts.”

Over the years Corraro said the school has expanded its extracurricular activities and intramural sports. Smartboards are in every classroom, iPads were purchased for use in the preschool and lower grades, and Chromebooks are now used in the upper grades, he said. The preschool has also expanded over the years - with the largest class ever graduating in 2017.

The teaching staff today includes 37 teachers, 19 of which are full time. There are also 18 part-time paraprofessionals, working mostly in the primary areas. The Convent, where the Sisters once resided, is now used as the preschool.

Correro said the school’s success is thanks in large part to the relationship between Precious Blood Parish and Saint Mary School.

“Our pastor, Father Eden Donahue, is a big proponent of Catholic education in our school compiled with our school board and a home school association that is phenomenal,” Corraro said. “There is great parent involvement, great community involvement, there is a strong relationship and rapport between parish, community, school community, which leads to a vibrant school. That’s the work of 60 years.

“They know we are what we say we are, the community knows Saint Mary’s is, and there is great respect for Saint Mary’s in the Milford community,” he added.

Correro said the school now has a student government, National Junior Honor Society and various extracurricular activities that contribute to each student's development.

“We’re a community that is getting more diverse, too,” he said. “We have several families that English is not their first language,” he said. “Everybody really looks for good moral development for their students and faith-based learning for their students. That’s what I hear when people ask me about Saint Mary School, and that’s what people expect.”

The reason Correro believes Saint Mary School praised the staff, students and parents for combining to keep Saint Mary School alive in a time when many Catholic schools are faced with lowering enrollment.

“The school community is phenomenal, the parents and their involvement in the school, the parents who support the school, the alumni, the grandparents who support the school ... the list goes on and on,” he said. “Saint Mary’s is phenomenal the way it operates. From the dedicated faculty that goes above and beyond to reach out to their students and families and to worry about the social and emotional well-being of each and every student at school to the administration who are active in the school, it’s all about teamwork.”