Story by Sean Connolly. Photo by Jon Balsbaugh.
A new high school will open its doors in Princeton, New Jersey, this fall, thanks to a partnership between Trinity Schools and The Wilberforce School.
The Wilberforce School (TWS) is an independent, Christian school with 160 students. This year, it is adding ninth and tenth grades to its previous pre-K through 8th grade offerings, and the school expects to add 11th and 12th grades in coming years.
Wilberforce high school students will follow Trinity’s curriculum in their math, science and humanities courses, and their teachers will receive ongoing training from Trinity master teachers.
This makes the high school at Wilberforce the first of its type — a school that will license the Trinity curriculum and maintain an ongoing training relationship with Trinity’s teachers and administrative leaders. To reflect these close ties, the school has a new designation, Trinity Member School, which it is already using in its marketing materials.
Howe Whitman, head of school at TWS, and Kerry Koller, president of Trinity Schools, Inc., signed a contract formalizing the partnership on August 6.
“It has been a joy to work with everybody at Trinity,” Howe says. “When Wilberforce leaders learned about Trinity’s approach, it seemed like the natural conclusion to the education we are already offering to lower and middle school students. We wanted to be able to offer those students the same kind of challenging and deep education that Trinity high school students receive, an education that honors God and focuses on the true, the good and the beautiful.”
“I am very pleased,” Kerry adds. “This is a new way for Trinity Schools and for the People of Praise to fulfill our goal of educating as many students as we can in a true and integral Christian humanism. We have been very impressed by the academic excellence at Wilberforce and by their leaders’ commitment to a Christian vision for education.”
The new partnership is the result of two years of prayer, conversation and work on the part of Howe, Karen Ristuccia (TWS academic dean) and other TWS leaders, together with Kerry, Andrew Zwerneman (head of school at Trinity School at Meadow View), Paul Kane (Trinity’s vice-president of finance) and members of the Trinity School board of trustees.
Connections between TWS and Trinity Schools go back to at least 2002, when Paul and Howe got to know each other through Paul’s brother, Leo. Coincidentally, Karen began to hear about Trinity through her nephews, Justin and Jonathan Young, who both graduated from Trinity School at Meadow View in Virginia. She visited the campus in 2011, and later that year Howe and a team from TWS also visited with Andrew and others at Meadow View.
In 2012, Howe and Kerry began to talk seriously about the partnership. Then in January of 2013, Andrew and two Meadow View students, Ben Mysliwiec and Mollie Clement, traveled to Princeton to speak about Trinity to a gathering of TWS parents. This fall, former Meadow View teacher, Katherine Krall, who recently moved to Princeton, will become the first ninth-grade Humane Letters teacher at TWS.
Another connection came in 2012 when a team from the People of Praise communications office (Greenlawn Films) produced a marketing video for TWS.
There are already many similarities between Wilberforce and Trinity. Both started small and both began holding their classes in church buildings. Both school cultures feature small classes, daily morning prayer and close relationships between teachers and students. Both admit students from a variety of Christian denominations, and both have reputations for academic excellence. A group of Christian parents founded TWS in 2005, naming it in honor of a British abolitionist and Christian member of parliament, William Wilberforce (1759-1833).
Fifteen students are enrolled in the new high school, and Howe expects the enrollment to grow. The high school has already attracted some graduating TWS eighth graders.
Howe says the high school classes will start out with boys and girls together, but they will transition to single-sex classes in the future. “I want it to be as much like a Trinity School as possible,” he says.
Kerry adds, “We’ve been very successful in spreading our curriculum in the past, but this partnership gives a new dimension to our work. We are very grateful to the Lord to be working with The Wilberforce School in this mutual endeavor.”