Notre Dame launches new partnership program in St. Petersburg area Catholic schools

Author: Bill Schmitt

Notre Dame ACE Academy

The University of Notre Dame has named two Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg as Notre Dame ACE Academy (NDAA) schools.

The NDAA partnership marks a significant deepening of the relationship between Notre Dame and K-12 schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, begun in 1997 when the University first provided teachers to local Catholic schools through Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Service through Teaching program.

Bishop Robert Lynch invited ACE to consider St. Petersburg as an NDAA site, and St. Joseph (Tampa) and Sacred Heart (Pinellas Park) were selected after a comprehensive feasibility study showed strong local support for the partnership and affirmed the schools’ capacity to serve area students effectively, particularly through the opportunities created by Florida’s private school tax credit. “These schools make an important difference in the lives of hundreds of families,” said Bishop Lynch. “We welcome Notre Dame’s support for our efforts to extend the advantages of Catholic schooling to as many children as possible in our diocese.”

By designating Saint Joseph and Sacred Heart as NDAA schools, ACE and the diocese seek to sustain long-term, comprehensive excellence in these schools by implementing a unique model of Catholic schooling. The NDAA model is built on the three pillars of ACE: educational excellence, the experience of community, and faith formation in the Catholic tradition.

The mission of the NDAA initiative is to provide a Catholic education of the highest quality to as many children as possible by mobilizing the resources of the University, the diocese, parental choice programs, and local communities. ACE faculty and staff will work closely with the NDAA schools and diocesan leaders in Tampa Bay to boost enrollment and enhance school leadership, curriculum, instruction, professional development, financial management, marketing and Catholic identity. According to NDAA director Christian Dallavis, “We share Bishop Lynch’s vision of creating opportunities for more families to choose a Catholic education of the highest quality for their children. We are excited to work in these Tampa Bay communities with dynamic teachers and incredible school leaders to help put more kids on the path to college and heaven."

Notre Dame ACE Academy

“These schools bring hope for the future to families, communities and the Church. We at Notre Dame are honored to work alongside many caring people to buttress that hope and to support the Catholic school mission that serves our children so well,” said Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., founder of ACE and director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at Notre Dame.

St. Joseph principal Brenda Henson Budd added, “As St. Joseph Catholic School approaches its 116th year, we are overjoyed with our new partnership with Notre Dame. This new alliance gives us confidence that we will inspire academic excellence and form young people in faith in West Tampa for another 100 years to come.” Andy Shannon, principal of Sacred Heart, endorsed the partnership as well, adding, “We are thrilled for Notre Dame to join Sacred Heart’s mission of preparing children for a life lived in service to Jesus, the Church, and the community.”

These schools represent the first expansion of the NDAA model, which began when a pilot cluster was established in Tucson, Ariz., in 2009.

The NDAA initiative is funded by a generous grant from the Walton Family Foundation, with support from the partner dioceses, Notre Dame, and private benefactors.

This announcement takes place during Catholic Schools Week 2012, which is celebrated nationwide Jan. 29 to Feb. 5.

For more information about the Notre Dame ACE Academies, visit on the Web.

Contact: Christian Dallavis,, 574-631-4962