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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Alliance for Independent Catholic Schools (A.I.C.S)?
The Alliance for Independent Catholic Schools (A.I.C.S.) is a formal partnership between Notre Dame Academy, Saint John’s High School and Venerini Academy that provides shared academic, extracurricular and athletic opportunities for Central Massachusetts students from PreK through 12th grade grounded in the Catholic tradition. While each of the schools will continue to operate autonomously—with separate administrative leadership teams, faculty, staff and boards of trustees—and will remain dedicated to their individual missions and sponsoring congregations, this new Alliance brings significant advantages to each school community.


How does the Alliance benefit students and families?

The Alliance offers several benefits for area families, including preferred admissions consideration for students who graduate from Venerini Academy in good academic standing and wish to enroll at Notre Dame or Saint John’s. New high school scholarships for Venerini students will also be available. In addition, the Alliance offers opportunities for increased collaboration between male and female students at the high school level, and additional interaction and mentorship between elementary school students and middle and high school students. Students at all three schools will benefit from new academic and extracurricular opportunities. Beginning in the fall of 2020, the Alliance will provide shared transportation between the campuses so that students from each school will have access to shared resources and facilities, including community, athletic, arts, and academic spaces. In addition, families with students who attend different schools within the Alliance will be able to drop all students off at one campus before school where they will be able to access transportation to all other campuses.


Why was the Alliance established? Why now?
Established in 2020, the idea for the Alliance was first discussed by Notre Dame, Saint John’s and Venerini in 2017, and is grounded in shared commitment and responsibility to provide a holistic and high-performing Catholic educational experience for students in our community. With the landscape of Catholic education changing across the world, this partnership allows all three schools to extend their resources and realize their commitment to more families in Central Massachusetts. In the future, it may also allow for the creation of financial efficiencies, such as shared purchasing, which would make funds available for other student programming needs.


When will the Alliance go into effect?

The Alliance will benefit students beginning in the 2020-21 academic year. A steering has been  appointed to explore options for further collaboration on an ongoing basis. It includes three representatives from each school (the head of school/principal, a member of the faculty/staff and a trustee) as well as Dr. Thomas Del Prete, professor of practice and Director of the Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice at Clark University, who shares a deep commitment to Catholic education. See the full list of steering committee members.

How will sharing resources impact current students?
Current students will have the same access to academic, extracurricular and athletic space and resources on their own campuses that they always have. In addition, through the Alliance, they will have opportunities to use facilities and work with faculty and staff on other campuses in ways that enhance their overall educational experience. The availability of shared transportation will allow all students who wish to participate in opportunities at other schools the ability to easily move between campuses. 


If students from Venerini Academy benefit from preferred admission to Notre Dame and Saint John’s, will there be fewer spots for students from non-Alliance schools seeking an independent Catholic school education at the middle and/or high school levels?

No. Given the small size of Venerini’s classes and the tradition of many Venerini students matriculating to Notre Dame and Saint John’s, we anticipate no impact on students who attend public or other Catholic/private elementary schools. Currently the majority of the incoming classes at Notre Dame and Saint John’s matriculate from public schools, a trend we anticipate will continue. 


How much will this partnership cost, or save, each school?
Initially there will be nominal costs associated with transportation between the schools and professional development for faculty and staff that will be shared proportionally by each school based on enrollment. These costs are built into the budget for next year and will not impact existing financial aid or scholarships. Longer-term, the Alliance will explore possible financial efficiencies between the schools, such as shared purchasing options. We anticipate the benefits to our students, as well as future cost savings, will outweigh costs.

New scholarships for Venerini students to attend Notre Dame and Saint John’s will be established through enhanced fundraising efforts. Existing scholarships and financial aid will not be impacted.


How will future savings be used?

Cost savings from the Alliance realized in the future will be used to strengthen and further develop shared programming and opportunities.  


Was the Alliance created because of financial and enrollment problems at any of the three schools?
No. This decision was driven by our collective interest in providing our students and families with the most holistic educational experience possible. By partnering, we are able to offer additional and expanded opportunities for academic, spiritual, social and athletic development. 


Is a full merger between the three schools the ultimate goal?

No. Notre Dame, Saint John’s and Venerini are all committed to remaining strong and independent Catholic schools. Each will continue to operate autonomously in ways consistent with our individual missions, identities, charism and sponsoring congregations.

Is the Alliance related to the Diocese’s decision to merge St. Peter Marian and Holy Name?
No. This idea has been discussed among the three schools since 2017. There was a recognition then, as there is now, that all schools need to adapt to changing times. This partnership will strengthen and expand each school’s offerings and improve the experiences of all students and families.  


Was the Alliance created to address financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic?
No. As noted above, this partnership has been in development for years. In fact, we had hoped to announce the Alliance earlier this year, but held off as our school communities prioritized response to the pandemic. As we begin to assess the full impact of coronavirus on our schools, the cost savings provided by the Alliance will allow us to provide additional opportunities for students. 


How will this change impact the Diocesan schools that are experiencing challenges with enrollment and finances?

The landscape of Catholic education is changing around the world and here in Central Massachusetts. Just as Diocesan schools are instituting their own changes to better position themselves for the future, Notre Dame, Saint John’s and Venerini are partnering to provide more opportunities for families in Massachusetts.

Have additional questions?  Please contact us at

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