One of a kind: Trinity Lutheran only Four Star high school in Indiana

Being named a Four Star School is nothing new for Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour.

But this year, Trinity has the distinction of being the only high school in Indiana to receive the honor.

The list of 41 Four Star Schools was released Friday by the Indiana Department of Education.

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This is the fourth time in five years Trinity has made the list.

“This is a collective achievement that requires the hard work and dedication of those committed to fulfilling our mission of educating, developing and preparing Christian servants and leaders,” Principal Ben Stellwagen said. “It’s also great affirmation of a job well done by our faculty, staff, students, families and local supporters.”

To earn Four Star status, schools must meet certain academic requirements, including receiving an A on the state’s A-F accountability system, having high ISTEP or End of Course Assessment pass rates and high graduation rates and showing success in preparing students for college and/or the workforce.

Trinity has an enrollment of 142 students in ninth through 12th grade. For the past five years, the school has had a 100 percent graduation rate.

The school offers more than 70 college credits, including Advanced Placement classes, and more than 75 percent of students graduate with one full year of college complete.

Class sizes at Trinity are small with a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio, and the school accepts vouchers from low-income families through the state-funded Choice Scholarship Program.

“Trinity provides a close-knit community and positive learning environment,” he said. “Students and teachers really work together closely in the educational experience.”

Being a small school does not keep Trinity from offering a wide variety of opportunities for extracurricular activities and involvement.

“By the time students graduate, they have built an academic record that is well-rounded and diverse, which makes them great candidates for college and scholarship applications,” Stellwagen said. “They have also developed time-management skills that will benefit them well into the future.”

Most importantly is that Trinity is a “Christ-centered ministry,” Stellwagen said.

“All of these factors play a role in Trinity’s ability to deliver our mission and deliver it well,” he said.

Stellwagen wasn’t surprised Trinity received Four Star status again, but he was shocked to find out it was the only high school to do so.

“It all starts in the classroom,” he said. “Our teachers are phenomenal and play an active role in the students’ entire academic experience. Our small class sizes allow students to receive the individualized attention they need to excel.”

Students attending Trinity know there are high expectations for achievement but that they will receive the support necessary to reach their goals, he said.

“All of our departments, including a full-time resource teacher assisting students with individual learning needs, a guidance counselor mindful of school culture and students’ general well-being, admissions actively seeing if Trinity is a good fit for future students and families, focus on the student, and we do very well to encourage the individual to succeed,” he said.

Since the Four Star status recognizes last school year’s achievement, Stellwagen said much credit goes to former Principal Dan Sievert, who left at the end of the 2015-16 school year for another job.

“He helped build Trinity’s reputation and high achievement,” Stellwagen said of Sievert.

But it’s a community-wide achievement, he added.

“The students are the lifeblood of the school, and the teachers are constant guides,” he said. “Our parents and families are actively involved, and we have great board and church leadership and generous supporters.”

Having a Four Star school in Seymour also is good for the community, Stellwagen added.

“Yes, Trinity is a private school, but its role in the community is a public good,” he said. “We are active in local business, hire well-qualified faculty and staff, offer facilities to the community, have students that get actively involved inside and out of school and our growing alumni base is returning to the area and taking on larger roles in the community, too.”

This year’s graduating class of 42 students is the largest the school has ever had and brings the total number of Trinity alumni to 371.

“Just another sign of the broad impact that Trinity can have on this area,” he said.

Senior Emma Patmore said the best thing about attending Trinity is how challenging it has been.

“The tough classes help students receive a better education,” she said. “Trinity has given me the opportunity to further my education at a higher level.”

Freshman Sawyer Doggett said the teachers are the main reason Trinity is a Four Star School.

“The teachers always make time to help and talk to you if you are stuck,” he said. “The staff really makes sure that you are never falling behind academically.”

Senior Hailley Peters said going to Trinity has not only prepared her for college but for life beyond school.

“Trinity has given me the experience and confidence I will need for the rest of my life,” she said.

The Four Star program began in 1988, but the department of education didn’t make private schools eligible for the award until the 2009-10 school year.

Over the years, several schools in Jackson County have received the honor, including Cortland and Emerson elementary schools, the former Freetown Elementary School, Crothersville Elementary School and Brownstown Central High School.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said being named a Four Star School “signifies a pursuit of academic excellence among both the students and the administration.”

“I am honored to recognize these Four Star Schools and their leadership for their hard work and dedication to preparing their students for a bright and prosperous future,” she said.