Our Mission

Since 1999, Saint Catherine Academy has offered a high-quality alternative education for young people of all faiths who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism.

We have successfully partnered with our local school districts to craft individualized instructional plans that target the needs of all of our students.

Through Our Core Values...

  • We respect the dignity and diversity of each student.
  • Our program is individually designed for each student.
  • We serve students of all races, ethnicities, faiths and economic backgrounds.
  • Our policies and programs celebrate diversity.
  • We focus on the total well-being of each student.
  • Our holistic approach to education emphasizes the relationships of what and how we learn.
  • We create an atmosphere that is supportive and welcoming where each child feels a sense of belonging.
  • Our facility is intentionally designed to support the educational program.
  • We celebrate the abilities and successes of each student.
  • Our teaching staff is highly qualified to meet the needs of each student.
  • We seek to build interpersonal relationships in a nurturing learning community.
  • Students develop socially as well as academically building self-esteem and confidence.
  • We bring hope and joy to our students, families, staff and community partners.
  • Students are transformed through a highly structured, nurturing program.

Our Organization

Charles F. Chiusano, Chairman
Michael LaBella, Vice Chairman
Anthony Minopoli, Secretary

Diane Auray
Steven Cheeseman, Ed.D.
Stephen Donahue
Jerry Hemenway, MD
Edward Lenard, MD
Michelle Rivelli, MD
Joseph Sindelar, Jr.
Thomas Vita
Monsignor Robert Weiss
Kelly Luff Weldon
Sara Zagrodzky
Helen Burland, Executive Director
Helen Burland, Executive Director hburland@diobpt.org

Eric Spencer, Director of Education

Laura Grozier, Director of Operations

Adult Services

Brady Cronin, Director


Sr. Cheryl Driscoll, RSM, Teacher
Joanne LaPorta, Teacher
Rosemary Lara, Teacher
James Winebrenner, Teacher
Darlene Jacabacci, Vocational Coordinator
Megan Collins, Art Teacher

Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy are provided through Rehabilitation Associates of Fairfield. Therapists work with teachers to meet the individual education goals of each student.

A Brief History

Saint Catherine Academy opened in 1999 on the campus of the Catholic Center in Bridgeport in response to a need in the Catholic community for a faith-based alternative for students with developmental disabilities.

In June 2003, the Academy was granted approval by the State of Connecticut Department of Education as a private special education program and began accepting placements from area public school districts, as well as directly from parents. As enrollment grew, the Academy needed a larger facility, and in 2005, the School Advisory Board initiated a Capital Campaign to fund a new home for the newly-named “Saint Catherine Academy,” which opened at its present location in Fairfield, Connecticut, in the fall of 2007.

Our first graduate received a diploma from former Bishop William E. Lori in 2007.

In 2008, the State of Connecticut Department of Education extended its approval of the Academy, and again 2013 and 2018. In the 2013 report, Saint Catherine Academy was commended for its “small class sizes allowing for the development of student-specific activities; effective integration of technology in the curriculum; well-maintained facility with a Life Skills apartment; highly quality and good variety of vocational opportunities; and a high level of collaboration between education staff and therapists.”

The School Advisory Board completed a Strategic Plan in 2013 which called for broader definition of disabilities served to include developmental disabilities with autism as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities. We continue to adjust to the needs of our students.

In 2015, the School Advisory Board transitioned to a Board of Directors as the Academy became part of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs.