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Headmaster hopes to build on opportunity

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  April 29, 2011 11:36 AM

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The headmaster of a Hyde Park private school hopes to turn his professional opportunity into a chance to build for that school’s future.

Frank Guerra, who leads Boston Trinity Academy, was recently named a 2011 – 2012 fellow at the Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. The fellowship provides professional development for the heads of faith-based schools and includes on-site training in Grand Rapids and in Phoenix, Ariz., as well as support by phone and online between those trips.

Guerra said the fellowship is as much an opportunity for the school as for him, since his own career ambitions are inseparable from his ambitions for the school.

“My personal goals are really wrapped up in how this institution does … the short-range and the long-range,” Guerra said. “This is, as far as I’m concerned, my last job. I’ll work here until I die or until they tell me I’m not effective anymore.”

Founded in 2002, Boston Trinity Academy is a non-denominational Christian School that currently serves 217 students in grades six to 12. Originally located in a rented space in Brookline, in 2006 the school purchased a former Catholic elementary school in Hyde Park and relocated there.

Guerra’s goal is to use the fellowship to devise a campus master plan to give the school much-needed space for athletics and the arts as well as additional classroom space that would allow the school to accommodate more than 100 additional students.

“We have a lovely building here, we’re in the old Joseph P. Kennedy School … but we don’t have our own gym space; we use City of Boston field space,” Guerra said. “We want to build our own gym. We want to build a fulltime, dedicated theater arts space. We want to grow to about 350 students, which we max out this building probably at about 240 to 250 students, which we think we’ll be there in two years.”

Established in 2007, the Van Lunen Center works to provide executive training for the leaders of schools from a variety of Christian faith traditions, including Catholic, Protestant and independent Christian schools. Shirley Roels, the center’s director, said this fellowship is intended to foster leadership skills and build relationships.

“Through case studies, reading, writing, interactive exercises, small group discussions, a school based project and coaching, participants will deepen their own leadership, develop skills essential to the tasks of headship and create deep relationships with peers and leaders,” Roels said in a statement released by the center. “They will become more deeply prepared to craft and implement a Christian educational mission with parents, teachers and other supporting communities.”

Since the Van Lunen Center also provides financial support to schools, Guerra hopes that when the master plan is complete the center will also help to fund the expansion.

Guerra said that in addition to its educational mission, the school has important religious and social missions woven into its curriculum.

“We talk about integrating faith, learning and service to others,” Guerra said. “That’s really a mantra you hear around here.”

As part of its social mission, the school seeks to serve an economically and ethnically diverse group of students. To ensure an economically diverse population, the school gave out almost $1.2 million in scholarships this year to assist 60 percent of the school’s students.

“Socioeconomically, we are really drawing from lots of different walks of life, from very poor to actually quite wealthy,” Guerra said. “We’ve had the sons of doctors and lawyers and we have kids that live in the projects that go to school here.”

Racial and ethnic diversity is also important. The current enrollment is 34 percent white, 30 percent black, 19 percent Asian, 10 percent Hispanic, 4 percent multiracial, 2 percent Middle Eastern and 1 percent Native American. Almost a third speak a language other than English at home.

Though the school takes pride in the diversity and geographic spread of its students, who come from towns as far away as Winchester, Framingham and Hingham as well as from countries around the world, Guerra said he hopes to serve those in the neighborhood as well.

“We really want to serve Hyde Park, too,” he said. “We have a lot of local kids that come to the school, and that’s really an emphasis as well.”

International students from countries including Canada, Mexico, France, Sweden, China, Korea and Nepal make up 17 percent of the school’s population. Guerra said the value of inclusiveness is important to the school and that students are encouraged to interact with others who have different backgrounds.

“If you go in our dining hall, you would never see at lunchtime all the black kids together or all the white kids together or all the Latino kids together,” Guerra said. “They’re all mixed-up together, and a lot of them have best friends — if you ask kids here, they would say, ‘My best friend is a person that I never even thought I’d ever meet or know that kind of person before I came to Boston Trinity Academy.’”

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