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The Ave Herald

Serving the community of Ave Maria, Florida


Donahue Academy Moves to Stabilize Leadership Under New Headmaster

csmith250The board of the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria has given new headmaster Chris Smith (right) a three-year contract extension as it moves to restore growth and stability at the k-12 Catholic school after a volatile few years.

Mr. Smith, who has 20 years of experience as a teacher and school administrator in Michigan, was hired just before the current academic year as the school's fourth headmaster in as many years. The contract extension aims to keep him at Donahue through the 2019/20 school year.

One of his initiatives to boost enrollment, which has declined from 279 in May to 245 today according to board Chairman Mike Schwartz, is planning to add a Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program at the school. The VPK program is a one-year program for four-year-olds that is funded by the state of Florida.

The biggest factor in Donahue's enrollment drop, Mr. Schwartz said, was the loss of 33 students to the Mason Classical Academy in Naples, a public charter school. He said most students who now attend Mason made the decision in January, before the board made the decision not to renew the contracts of three popular staff members, one of whom was subsequently kept on. He acknowledged that some families left after that as well.

Mr. Schwartz said in an email to The Ave Herald that he hopes the VPK program will add between 15 and 20 students in the next academic year, and that the overall enrollment target for next year is between 285 and 300.


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