Fontbonne students greet school year with sunrise ceremony

The cliché about teenagers is that they like to sleep late. But try telling that to seniors at Fontbonne Hall Academy!

They started off their school year literally at the crack of dawn.

More than 100 students from the Catholic high school for girls in Bay Ridge took part in a school tradition known as "senior sunrise,” in which seniors gather on Shore Road on the first day of classes to watch the sun rise. Fontbonne Hall Academy is located on Shore Road and 99th Street. Shore Road, which sits on the southwest Brooklyn waterfront, offers a spectacular view of New York Harbor.

The “senior sunrise” tradition had a special significance this year, according to school officials, who said a new day is dawning at the school. With the installation of Mary Ann Spicijaric as the new principal, and with the continuing work of Gilda King as associate principal, this year marks the first time in the history of Fontbonne Hall Academy that two lay women are leading the school. Throughout its history, the school, which was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, has been led by sisters from that religious order.

"When the Sisters of St. Joseph spoke to me about the school's mission of developing women leaders in a school founded on the congregation's mission of unity and reconciliation through all-inclusive love, this position as principal was simply a dream come true for me,” Spicijaric said.

Spicijaric succeeds Sister Dolores Crepeau, who served as principal of Fontbonne Hall Academy for eight years. For her years of service to Fontbonne Hall Academy, Crepeau was nominated for a New York Daily News Heroes in Education Award in July. She is now the principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Bensonhurst.

The new administration at Fontbonne Hall Academy is seeking to increase the number of science courses in the school, including a program in which students would work at colleges and universities to carry out original research projects under the supervision of scientists, officials said.

Spicijaric said she is committed to single-sex education for girls and believes that an all-female student body is an environment where girls can find their voices, develop confidence, and grow into independent, strong, professional women.

In addition to science, students will also be getting more in terms of the arts, Spicijaric said.

“We will be focusing on adding specialty programs in each academic area, and on developing our art and music programs,” she said. “With these programs in place, coupled with our small class sizes, our girls will truly be getting what I believe to be the best possible college preparatory education," the new principal said.