School's out for St. Joseph
The only all-girls Catholic high school in Suffolk County, a hidden gem housed in majestic buildings on a lush 211-acre campus in Brentwood, is closing its doors. [CORRECTION: The enrollment in the K-8 division of the Academy of St. Joseph in Brentwood is coed. Because of an editing error, a story Thursday was incorrect. (A17 ALL 11/3/2008)]
The Academy of St. Joseph, whose history dates back 153 years, lacks the students and money to make running it financially feasible, Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood president Sister Jean Amore said yesterday. The school will shut down in June.
"For the congregation, this was a very, very hard decision and a sad decision," Amore said. The school is "not only attached [physically] to our mother house, but it's certainly attached to our hearts and our history."
Academy administrators stunned parents, students and alumni with the news at a meeting Tuesday night. But crestfallen and angry alumni vowed to fight back to save the institution that has the feel of an elite New England-style prep school.
"It's heartbreaking," said Anne Van Thoden, a 1994 graduate from Massapequa. "I think they are doing a great disservice to women on Long Island."
Amore said the decision was irreversible. "This is a definite no," she said. "We have tried everything and studied everything. We looked at the pool of resources, and it's not just there."
Many alumni said they were caught off-guard by the announcement, and pleaded with the sisters to keep the school open at least one more year so they figure out a way to help keep it alive.
Van Thoden called attending the academy "the greatest experience of my life." Others described it as a "magical" place where they forged special, lifelong friendships.
After Newsday disclosed in August that the school might close, surprising many alumni, they formed a Facebook group that now has 450 members who want to save the academy, Van Thoden said.
Amore and other school administrators said they have done everything feasible to keep the school afloat, including fundraising drives, demographic studies and outreach to alumni around the United States and in Puerto Rico. Still, this year's freshman class was just 37 students. About 340 students are enrolled in the K-12 school, which is female student in the lower grades. About 450 to 500 students are needed for the school to stay open.
The school opened in 1856 in Brooklyn and was the first project of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood after their founding. It was run out of the same building where the sisters lived - at night, they pulled out cots and slept in the classrooms.
By 1903, the school had moved to the property in Brentwood. For decades it thrived, attracting boarding students from affluent families in South America and serving as a sister school to LaSalle Military Academy in Oakdale. At its height, more than 600 students were enrolled.
But enrollment declines and financial difficulties have afflicted it for the past 20 years, said principal Sister Kerry Handal. Tuition for the high school is $7,150.
"It's a very difficult thing"
to close the school, said its president, Sister Eileen Kelly.
"It's a very special place."
Roanoke Catholic School
finds itself in the midst of an affordability war
Photos by SAM DEAN The Roanoke Times
Kindergarten teacher Debbie Samsa helps George Smith at Roanoke Catholic School on Thursday.
Sara Plante teaches a physics course at Roanoke Catholic School on Thursday.
Ray-Eric Correia, the president of Roanoke Catholic School, works out of a cozy office and spends part of his time in friendly banter with his students. But despite those pleasant trappings of his position, he is waging an all-out "affordability war."
His school, like Catholic schools across the country, is increasingly faced with parents who struggle with the tuition, which leads to a decline in enrollment. It's not a new problem, but this year's economic downturn has compounded it, forcing private school administrators to rev up their fundraising.
Although private schools across Roanoke have been affected in some way by the national economy, Roanoke Catholic has been hit particularly hard. That could be because of the school's mission, Correia said.
"It's probably more acute in the Catholic schools because we're looking to have a wide range of socioeconomic families," he said.
Other Roanoke-area private schools say more of their families are having a hard time with tuition as well.
Faith Christian School's enrollment has continued to climb, although at a slower pace, but the school has boosted the amount of its budget dedicated to financial aid. Enrollment is also up slightly at Roanoke Valley Christian Schools, even though the school does not have much financial aid available. And at North Cross School, where enrollment is up almost 5 percent, more students are applying for help.
Roanoke Catholic, which opened in 1889, charges tuition ranging from $5,675 to $7,375 for Catholics and from $7,025 to $8,775 for people of other faiths. That's roughly between $200 and $500 more than the previous year. This school year it also charged an extra $50 per student to offset high energy costs.
Last year's fundraising garnered $645,000. Most of that money was designated for specific purposes, but the school still was able to put about $220,000 toward financial aid.
"There is no down period. It's always full-speed ahead," said Paul Yengst, a Roanoke Catholic School graduate, who serves as the chairman of the school's board.
All told, the school will put about $757,000 into student discounts this year. About four out of five students receive some kind of assistance. Those figures take into account the discounts for Catholic students.
That has not been enough to stem a decline in enrollment. About 509 students are enrolled this year, down from 549 last year, a decline of more than 7 percent. About one-third of the departing students left for financial reasons, Correia said.
"Certainly the school, like any service organization, reflects the economy," Correia said.
The Roanoke school is not alone. Catholic schools across the Diocese of Richmond, which includes almost all of Virginia except for the Northern Virginia suburbs, have suffered, said Annette Parsons, chief education administrator for the diocese. The 25 schools in the diocese are educating about 8,300 students this year, down 300 from last year.
"The number one reason the families leave is the tuition," she said.
Last year, Guardian Angel Academy in Staunton had to close its doors. A school in Petersburg was also threatened with closing, but Pope Benedict XVI's visit to America this year brought renewed attention to Catholic education, which helped save the school, Correia said.
"More schools will close. There's no question about it," said Joseph O'Keefe, dean of the school of education at Boston College who has studied Catholic schools.
The cost of running Catholic schools has increased substantially in the past few decades, and not just because of expensive new technology, he said.
"Fifty years ago, these places were filled with nuns, highly trained women who didn't cost the school very much at all."
At the same time, schools can no longer rely on "bake sales and bingo," and must now turn to sophisticated annual fundraising campaigns with up-to-date auditing systems.
"Generally in philanthropy, donors are much more activist. They want to see where their money's going, particularly, I think, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals," O'Keefe said.
In Virginia, the Richmond Diocese started the McMahon Parater Foundation to supplement the fundraising efforts of individual schools. The foundation gave out its first $200,000 this year, about $25,000 of which went to Roanoke Catholic students.
But Parsons said there's still about $1.5 million in unmet needs across the diocese "and those families continue to come even though they have to make sacrifices to come."
"If the schools are going to continue to thrive, we have to find the means to help these families financially," she said.
At Roanoke Catholic, that means Correia will have to continue waging his war.
Union-News (Springfield, MA)
July 9, 2002
Arguments from diocese
HOLYOKE - More than 1,500 people packed the War Memorial auditorium last night to protest the closing of Holyoke Catholic High School and brainstorm how to work with diocesan officials to keep the downtown site open.
The Springfield Diocese closed the school last week "due to unsafe conditions for students and faculty."
The meeting, organized by the Save Holyoke Catholic High School Committee, brought residents, alumni, students, school officials, teachers, city planners and public safety officials under one roof to discuss why the school was closed and "find out the truth," said Jeffrey A. Task, co-chair of the committee.
Earlier, at the chancery office of the Diocese of Springfield, Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, diocese vicar general, said the diocese is studying the possibility of housing students at a yet-undisclosed site in Holyoke.
The Most Rev. Bishop Thomas L. Dupre was not at that press conference because he is at a retreat.
Officials last week said students would be housed at Cathedral High School in Springfield in September.
Sniezyk expects the site to be an alternative to moving students to Cathedral while the diocese develops plans for a new school.
Sniezyk would not divulge any information about the site, but said an announcement could be made later this week.
Diocese spokesman Sean Cahillane said the press conference was called to "put away any rumors or misconceptions" as to the decision to close the school.
The closing was not a conspiracy to hurt students, parents or the city of Holyoke, Cahillane said.
Sniezyk assured the media the Holyoke Catholic Advisory Board was aware of the decision to close the school.
Yet at the War Memorial, George E. Cartier, president of the Holyoke Catholic Advisory Board, told the crowd the board was never consulted about the school's closing and was only informed of the decision to close it.
Cartier also said a professional engineer hired by the diocese had determined the buildings were structurally sound, a determination echoed by the city's Fire Department and Building Commissioner Steven G. Reno.
Mayoral aide Kathleen G. Anderson spoke on behalf of Mayor Michael J. Sullivan, who is vacationing in Ireland, by saying he worked closely with the diocese to get them whatever was requested in the search for a new school site and even offered to secure grant funding.
Holyoke Economic and Industrial Development director Jeffrey P. Hayden said city officials worked with the diocese for more than a year and a half to find a site that would be suitable for the school.
The diocese said it needed 20 acres on which to build a school, including athletic fields and a 500-space parking lot.
"That was the mission. That is tough to find in the world, let alone in Holyoke," Hayden told the crowd, which erupted in applause.
City planners had identified a 10-acre site around the current downtown campus which could be cleared. The city also agreed to discontinue the use of streets and alleyways where necessary, Hayden said.
In January, the school's advisory board took a vote to eliminate a downtown site, Hayden said.
Hayden dispelled the rumor the diocese made an offer on city-owned land on Whiting Farms Road, one of the few taxable parcels left in the city.
Police Officer Andrew D. DiNapoli attended the War Memorial event. He and other members of the John DiNapoli Memorial Golf Tournament, named for his slain father, which had turned over $45,000 to the school from the tournament, said he supported the group and that his committee is planning to ask the diocese for its money back because it was taken "under false pretenses."
The meeting at the War Memorial was still in session at press time last night.
In a telephone interview from Ireland, Mayor Sullivan confirmed comments by Dupre that the diocese did express interest last year in the 18.7-acre parcel of city-owned, industrial-zoned land targeted for commercial development.
The diocese "never formally asked for that site. They never made an offer to us," Sullivan said.
In fact, he said, church officials broke off discussions after he stressed that the property was ideally suited to providing property taxes and jobs for the entire city and that the church owns other large parcels nearby.
Sullivan said the diocese turned down his offer to apply for a $50,000 planning grant from MassDevelopment, a state agency that could fund design and planning for a downtown school campus.
The agency could also make low-interest loans for demolition and construction of a downtown campus, which could reduce building costs by millions of dollars.
Diocese officials declined that offer, too, he said.
When diocese officials claimed they had a study showing student safety was a negative factor downtown, Sullivan said there had not been one major incident of violence in 40 years. When he asked to see the study, the request fell on deaf ears.
After the safety report surfaced showing major fire and air-quality problems, the city's fire and building department sent inspectors, who gave the buildings a clean bill of health.
"Every time we got something going, they came up with something else," he said.
Before leaving for his trip June 29, Sullivan said, he had offered to help find 12 temporary classrooms Holyoke Catholic officials said they would need while temporary improvements were made.
Among the options: the old fire headquarters on Maple Street, offices at PeoplesBank on High Street, Open Square on Dwight Street or the Holyoke Gas & Electric offices on Walnut Street.
The press conference at the chancery office yesterday brought architects, engineers and safety specialists together to show a video highlighting Holyoke Catholic's structural and safety deficiencies.
The video, taped last week, showed deteriorated areas of the school's five buildings.
Architects and safety officials cited deficiencies and safety hazards including a lack of safe egress from buildings, exposed wiring and the layout of boiler rooms near student areas.
Consultants hired by the diocese to conduct a study of the feasibility of renovating the school said they were alarmed at the condition of the buildings.
Raymond C. Casella of A.P. Casella Architects of Agawam said the school's deficiencies are systemic and a few upgrades will not make the buildings usable.
The diocese had always planned to move from the downtown site to a new school, but the unsafe conditions made it necessary to move more quickly than expected, Cahillane said.
"We chose to err on the side of caution," he said.
Sniezyk said the buildings would probably need to be razed unless some other use for them is found.
Staff writers Mike Burke and David Reid contributed to this report.
Copyright, 2002, The Republican Company, Springfield, MA.
St. Martin de Porres Academy, 250 E. 111th, will close at the end of the school year, students and faculty were told Wednesday. School officials blamed declining enrollment and budget problems. The Roman Catholic school was created in 1987 from a consolidation of three high schools: Mendel Preparatory, Unity and St. Willibrord. The schools merged into the Mendel building.
Copyright 1997 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.
May 12, 1997
The Archdiocese of Chicago has rejected a last-ditch effort to save St. Martin de Porres High School, 111th and King, and the 40-acre site probably will be put on the block, parents said Monday. Idell Johnson, head of a parents group trying to save the school, said the archdiocese rejected a plan by parents to raise more money and rent out part of the four-building complex. The Augustinian religious order, which owns the complex, have said they want to sell it to the highest bidder, Johnson sa id. Archdiocesan high school consultant Janet Sisler cited escalating costs and declining enrollment for the closing.
May 19, 1991
The St. Mary's High softball team is approaching Monday's season-ending doubleheader with Whitney Tech of Hamden like any other games - even though they will be the last in school history.
"They're not going to be mopey just because it's the last game," coach Renee Balisciano said. "All season none of them has talked about this being the last year."
Softball is the only sport at St. Mary's this spring. St. Mary's, a Catholic school for girls (it was coed from 1936 to 1961), will close its doors next month after 90 years because of financial problems and declining enrollment.
St. Mary's is the state's third Catholic high school to close in the last two years. Central Catholic of Norwalk closed last year and South Catholic of Hartford is shutting down next month - both because of lack of money.
The St. Mary's softball team, with a record of 1-10, isn't good enough to qualify for the state tournament, so Monday's doubleheader has extra meaning.
"I want to end on a good note," said junior catcher Julie Cerrone. "If we win or lose, I want to feel good about it."
The Olympic ideal - competition above winning - is prevalent at St. Mary's, said Athletic Director Peg McGowan. She noticed it after coming to the school seven years ago. McGowan coached volleyball and track at Milford high schools.
"They (St. Mary's athletes) were very naive to competition," said McGowan, who coached the school's volleyball team. "They'd get blown out and they'd be singing on the bus on the way home. It was refreshing."
The attitude hasn't changed.
"In all my years here, I've heard that it doesn't matter if you win or lose, but how well you play together," said junior class president Anne Miller, who plays three sports.
Said McGowan: "They're the happiest bunch of kids I've ever dealt with. You rarely ever hear a kid say, `We stink.' "
School spirit and an emphasis on winning were greater, many say, before boys sports were dropped in 1961.
"When the boys were kicked out, it might have put a damper on school spirit," said Bob Jacunski, 50, of Wallingford, a three-sport standout at St. Mary's who graduated in 1958.
Jacunski, who does public relations for Southern New England Telephone, played end on the last football team at St. Mary's in 1957. The team went 4-2, winning the last four games for the school's best football record in 19 years.
Jacunski said St. Mary's biggest rival was Notre Dame of West Haven. He recalls playing the Knights in football as a freshman the year after a fight had broken out during a 12-6 loss to Notre Dame.
"Sister Uriel (the principal) told us she wanted us to be on our best behavior," Jancuski said. "She didn't want to let it happen again."
St. Mary's behaved, all right, losing 61-0 to an ND team that included the late Nick Pietrosante, who would star at the University of Notre Dame and in the NFL.
St. Mary's didn't always lose. The baseball team won state championships in 1959 and '60. The Friars defeated Housatonic Regional of Falls Village 4-2 for the Class M title in '59 and St. Basil's of Stamford 8-0 for the Class S title the following year.
In 1961, the baseball team advanced to the Class S semifinals before losing to Washington High 1-0. It was the last baseball game in school history.
St. Mary's has many well-known alumni who played sports at the school. Among them are state Rep. Bruce Morris, Westbrook Superintendent of Schools Bob Schreck and Hillhouse baseball coach Sam Burrell. The three played together on succesful teams in the early '50s.
Vanessa Thompson brought attention to the school in the early '80s through her achievements in cross country. Thompson was the State Open champion in 1981 and won Class M and State Open titles in 1983.
"She's a legend in this school," McGowan said. "I'm really grateful to her talents for putting St. Mary's on the map."
Cross country was one of the few sports the school offered this year. Track was dropped two years ago because of lack of interest. The school once had field hockey, bowling, swimming and tennis for girls.
The gym is one of the smallest in the state. "People laugh when they see it," McGowan said. Before the gym was built in the 1960s, basketball games were played at the New Haven YMCA. The school has no softball field and much of its athletic equipment is outdated.
Despite the hardships, athletics has been an important part of school life at St. Mary's. And it will be a sad moment Monday when the last out is made against Whitney Tech.
Syracuse Herald-Journal (NY)
April 30, 1992
OSWEGO'S CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL TO CLOSE
Bishop Cunningham Junior-Senior High School will close for good at the end of the school year.
The Diocese of Syracuse decided to close the school because enrollment was too low, diocese officials said. Only 102 students are registered for next year. The school has 167 students now.
"There are only nine students registered for seventh grade next year," Principal Sister DePaul Juliano said. "There are only nine incoming students in the 11th grade. It's very hard to run a strong academic program for only nine students."
The closing will leave Oswego County without a Catholic school above the seventh grade. There are three Catholic elementary schools in the county. Students next year will either have to go to public schools or commute to Bishop Grimes High School in Syracuse.
Bishop Cunningham has been near closing before. The diocese almost shut the school in 1985, Juliano said, until the school managed to boost enrollment to more than 200 students.
Copyright, 1992, The Herald Company
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
November 10, 1989
TRINITY CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
SOUTHBRIDGE - Due to declining enrollment, the high school at Trinity Catholic Academy will close at the end of the school year in June, Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of the Diocese of Worcester announced yesterday.
"The low number of students is neither educationally nor financially viable," Harrington said in a letter that parents of students and staff members should receive today in the mail, according to Charles E. McManus, diocesan superintendent.
Harrington decided to close the school following a recent recommendation by its board of trustees.
McManus said 69 students attend the high school. He said an additional 250 students attend the elementary and middle schools, which serve students from pre-kindergarten to grade 8.
McManus said the high school had become a "financial drain" on the diocese, but that there are no plans to close the rest of the academy. High school students were paying an annual tuition of $2,075, he said.
The announcement was made prior to scheduled Dec. 2 placement tests in order to prevent a fruitless recruitment drive, he said.
The former Marianhill Central Catholic High School was incorporated into the academy system two years ago.
At the time, the diocese announced a three-year commitment to the academy. In June the academy will have been in operation for three years.
McManus said the school fell short of its goal to increase the enrollment of grades 6-12 from 150 to 250.
"We had concern then about the enrollment," McManus said. "We were certainly hopeful that this move to an academy governed by a board of trustees would give credence to the importance of a Catholic education. It obviously was not successful."
Richard J. Flynn, chairman of the board of trustess for the academy, said, "I think it was an unfortunate thing that had to be done." He said enrollment objectives were not realized and part of the reason might be because of the cost. he said a number of students are on financial aid.
Students in grades 9-11 will be incorporated into the three Catholic high schools in Worcester - Holy Name, St. Peter-Marian, or St. Mary's, McManus said. Students in grade 8 will take placement tests.
Students at Trinity Academy come from an area ranging from Ware to Spencer to Webster.
"A Catholic education will be available and accessible, though it may be at a greater sacrifice because of distance or cost," Harrington said, adding that representatives of the schools will visit Trinity Academy later in the school year to talk with students.
Teachers also will be accommodated, Harrington said.
"Every effort will be made to offer a contract to our teachers for next year in one of our central Catholic high schools without loss of benefits or seniority," he said.
Harrington said the decision to close the school was a difficult one.
"I see the need to increase student enrollment that is beyond (the trustees') or my ability to achieve. Some disagree with me. The ultimate responsibility is mine. I must follow my conviction while I understand that of those who do not share mine," he said.
Harrington said the school's headmaster, the Rev. Chester A. Devlin, will be re-assigned in a teaching capacity.
Attempts to reach Devlin, who resides at St. James Church in Grafton, were unsuccessful.
Staff reporter Harold A. Gushue contributed to this story.
Miami Herald, The (FL)
March 18, 1986
KEY WEST CATHOLIC HIGH
SCHOOL TO CLOSE
The end of 118 years of Catholic high school education in Key West is coming amid tears, anger and pain.
"Don't they realize this is the only Catholic school in the Keys? Don't they know kids want a choice? Don't they know we want to learn, practice our faith here every day?" Jorge Rioseco, a frustrated senior, asked his teachers at Mary Immaculate High School Monday. The Archdiocese of Miami will shut down the oldest Catholic high school in South Florida in June.
Principal Theresa Axford, herself on the verge of tears, tried to calm the school's 81 distraught students with a mix of realism and hope. "I don't want to hear of anyone taking the (high school equivalency) test or dropping out. Don't be talking about taking a drastic stand. . . . Now is a good opportunity to infuse this school's special philosophy into another school."
Officials decided Thursday to close the high school's ninth through 12th grade classes, said Sister Marie Danielle, the Miami Archdiocese associate education superintendent. Mary Immaculate's seventh and eighth grades, which boost the total enrollment to 110, will be combined with St. Mary Star of the Sea Elementary School in a single unit, probably housed in the high school building.
Falling enrollments and rising costs have threatened South Florida's oldest Catholic school for 10 years, she said. Although the archdiocese pumped $1.2 million into the school since 1978, the financial crisis never stabilized.
Enrollment dropped about one-third
from 168 students in 1980, Axford said. Tuition is $135 a month,
although costs are
Finally, after a team of officials visited the school last month, the archdiocese decided to close it before mounting losses killed the elementary program as well, Danielle said. The sale of the old elementary school building last year brought in about $800,000, but it and other fund-raising efforts failed to pay all bills, including salaries for 14 teachers.
Catholic educators traditionally favor elementary schools, Axford said, because younger children need the initial religious and moral training they provide.
"But what about the people who didn't learn about their faith until high school?" senior class president Wayne Elliott said.
Elliott and 17 other seniors will be the school's last graduates. Other students are expected to transfer to Key West High School, which is already making plans for the transition.
The school was established in 1868 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. It opened its doors on the present Truman Avenue site in 1874 as the Covent of Mary Immaculate, an all-girl, 12-grade school.
The nuns closed the school briefly in 1898 to nurse soldiers wounded in the Spanish-American War. Boys were admitted into the high school in 1952. The beautiful but rotting old wooden convent was replaced with modern concrete structures in the mid-1960s.
Parents and students planned to confront Archbishop Edward McCarthy Monday night and ask him to reconsider. McCarthy was in Key West to perform confirmation ceremonies for 17 students.
"We may not have the numbers or the money, but we've got more love than any of the (archdiocese's) other schools," Rioceco said.
Copyright (c) 1986 The Miami
January 25, 1983
CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL TO
Our Lady of Victory Hall, a private Catholic high school in Montgomery County, will be closed in June because of a growing number of operational problems.
The planned closing was announced by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, a Pennsylvania-based order that has run the school, at 7601 Old York Rd., Melrose Park, for 60 years.
A shortage of teaching nuns, a growing deficit and a declining student enrollment influenced the decision to close the school, a spokeswoman for the order said.
Our Lady of Victory Hall is a school for girls and the upper division of Melrose Academy. Sister Mary Elizabeth Looby, the principal, said the elementary school, kindergarten through eighth grade, would remain open.
"The closing comes as a surprise to a lot of parents," Sister Looby said. ''There is shock and disappointment and a feeling of 'what do we do?' "
Sister Looby said the high school has 83 students, including 25 seniors. In the late 1960s, the school had 140 students, she said. Sister Looby said the economy appeared to be a factor in the declining enrollment.
Despite an annual tuition of $2,150 per child, the high school still did not have enough money to run the school, said the spokeswoman for the Grey Nuns. She would not disclose the amount of the school's deficit: "Just say it was quite large."
Of the 15 teachers in the high school, only five are nuns. Hiring lay teachers, who make more money than nuns, was a financial burden, the spokeswoman said, adding that no one was joining the order to replace the nuns who are getting older.
Nationally, Catholic schools are being staffed by more and more lay teachers. From 1968 to 1981, the number of American nuns decreased more than 30 percent, from 176,341 to 122,653.
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, founded in 1921, has 274 nuns and provides teachers for schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Alaska.
Copyright (c) 1983 The Philadelphia
November 1, 1990
PAROCHIAL SCHOOL IN CONN.
NEW HAVEN -- St. Mary's High School, the city's only Roman Catholic high school, will close in June because of plummeting enrollment, related financial problems and the difficulty of retaining nuns to staff the school, officials said. "We feel there is a great need in the New Haven community for a school such as St. Mary's, and that's part of the pain involved in having to come to this decision," Sister Margaret Ormond said Tuesday. She is superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs in Columbus, Ohio, which has operated the school since its founding in 1901. The school's board of trustees, composed of sisters who run the school, reached a consensus Tuesday night to close it. The school has been an all-girls school except between 1936 and 1961 and between 1976 to 1981.
Copyright 1990, 1998 Globe
April 27, 1989
DESALES HIGH IN LOCKPORT
WILL CLOSE AS WILL ST. ELIZABETH SCHOOL IN BUFFALO
After 43 years of service to the Lockport community, DeSales Catholic High School will close in late June.
Also closing is St. Elizabeth of Hungary Elementary School, 89 Military Road, Buffalo.
DeSales Principal R. Alfredo D'Agostino said the Buffalo Diocese reached that decision after seeing a decade of steadily decreasing enrollments. The announcement, however, came as a surprise.
"I was informed at 8:40 this morning," D'Agostino said Wednesday. "I'm disappointed. But again, it's a management decision and based upon (the declining enrollments), it was the right thing to do."
The school has 81 students, considered in the middle range for Catholic schools, D'Agostino said. The senior class is 25 students. The 14-member faculty includes three part-time instructors.
D'Agostino said the eight full-time lay teachers may be transferred to other schools in the diocese.
The decision leaves Niagara Catholic in Niagara Falls as the only Catholic high school in Niagara County. Other Catholic schools near Lockport are Cardinal O'Hara in the Town of Tonawanda, St. Mary's in Lancaster and Notre Dame in Batavia.
Area parents will be able to send their children to any of the other schools and will be helped by the diocese, he said.
"The diocese has agreed to provide free transportation for those children," D'Agostino said.
D'Agostino said the decline in enrollment is a fact of life for many school districts that are witnessing the passing of the baby-boomer era.
"It permeates all the school systems," he said. "It's just that at smaller schools you feel it more."
Monsignor David M. Lee, director of communications for the Diocese of Buffalo, said the diocese also was forced to increase tuition each year, which resulted in many parents sending their children to public schools.
Monsignor Lee said the Board of Catholic Educators reached the decision Tuesday after spending 11/2 years trying to reverse the trend of school closings. He said Niagara University offered curriculum consultants and an advisory board was formed. Despite that, the indication was that enrollment would continue to slide below the current 81.
"Projections were that next year it would slip to 75," Monsignor Lee said. DeSales' peak enrollment was 500 students -- "but we're going back about 10 or 15 years, to the early 1970s," said D'Agostino, who was appointed principal last July.
In recent years, enrollment dropped from 157 in 1984-85 to 127 in 1986-87. Enrollment went below the 100-student barrier for the first time this school year.
D'Agostino said both the staff and the students were were saddened by the news.
"I think some of the younger students had their hearts set on attending for all three or four years, and they were surprised and disappointed," he said.
Monsignor Lee said the diocese received several calls from parents who "were very upset. It was a hard day for them."
DeSales, at 6914 Chestnut Ridge Road, opened in 1946.
St. Elizabeth School has 121 pupils enrolled this year, and efforts are being made to place them in nearby Our Lady of Black Rock School at 16 Germain St. The school has been staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer and a lay faculty.
News Staff Reporter Anthony Cardinale contributed to this report.
Copyright (C) 1989, 2001,
The Buffalo News
May 22, 2005
Beset by declining enrollment and a mounting budget deficit, Morris County's first Roman Catholic high school will close in June.
Deacon Daniel Scrone, president of the Bayley-Ellard High School, announced the decision to about 190 students and faculty gathered in the school gym Friday afternoon.
"We simply do not have the critical mass of students or the financial resources to continue as an independent and viable entity," Scrone wrote in a letter to parents.
The Diocese of Paterson said it could no longer make up shortfalls in an operating deficit that had climbed to about $1 million.
"We really did give the school every possible opportunity, but at some point it's time to face reality," diocesan spokeswoman Marianna Thompson said.
Thompson said the diocese will help place staff and students in other diocesan schools. Space is available at Morris Catholic High School in Denville and Paterson Catholic High School, she said.
Established as a grammar school in the late 19th century, Bayley-Ellard became Morris County's first Catholic high school when it added a four-year high school curriculum in 1920.
In 1949, the school was moved to its present location, a 28-acre former Walker mansion in Madison.
Thompson said the diocese has no plans to sell the property and could use it as a retreat house or home for retired priests.
Copyright, 2005, South Jersey
December 16, 1992
A potent combination of nitty-gritty politics and savvy brokering by business leaders and alumni saved five Philadelphia Catholic high schools from closing or merging - at least for now.
Catholic high schools outside Philadelphia were not so lucky.
Two schools each in Montgomery and Bucks counties will merge and the city of Chester's only Catholic high school will close in June, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua announced yesterday.
Students at the remaining 22 archdiocesan high schools can now attend any school under a new policy of open enrollment. That means hard work for the schools, which must now begin marketing their programs to lure students.
Bevilacqua's announcement ends two months of nail-biting.
"Now we go on living," he said yesterday. "I see this as a resurrection, as a new beginning for the Catholic schools."
KEY ANNENBERG ROLE
For the first time in a long time, city residents could say they haven't lost ground to the suburbs, as the decision to save inner-city schools and not the suburban ones bucked a decades-long trend.
What worked for Philly? Large,
tradition-bound Catholic schools with huge numbers of alumni
in powerful business, government and private sector jobs, who
had a vested interest in making sure the schools continued to
Last-minute deals engineered by developer Ron Rubin; Mayor Rendell, a proven fund-raiser; City Councilman Daniel McElhatton, a Northeast Catholic High grad, along with dogged alumni, tipped the balance.
The public process began last October, when Bevilacqua began plowing through 8,000 written pleas and sat through six regional meetings attended by more than 10,000 people who came out in response to a Coopers & Lybrand accounting firm's recommendation to close or merge 10 of the archdiocese's 25 high schools.
The firm's $240,000 study cited declining enrollment and a $10 million deficit that could grow to $68.4 million by the year 2000.
Yesterday, Bevilacqua said he would merge all-girls' Bishop Conwell with all-boys' Bishop Egan, and Archbishop Kennedy with Bishop Kenrick. He also said he would close St. James Catholic High School for Boys in Chester.
Although the archdiocese had been talking with the business community for some time, things began to heat up about two weeks ago, when developer Rubin and other business leaders approached billionaire Walter Annenberg.
"This is not a parochial issue," Rubin said. "It's a community and citywide and regional issue, and consequently we felt it was perfectly proper that the business community play a role."
Out of that meeting came a promise from Annenberg, made public last week, to give $2 million to the archdiocesan schools if the schools and the archdiocese raised $8 million.
The matching grant prompted more acts of largesse. Last Friday, Rendell appealed to corporate leaders to contribute to the schools.
Rendell, Chamber of Commerce chief Charles Pizzi and Bevilacqua will be sending out a joint letter to more than 6,000 businesses next month urging them to help raise the $8 million for Annenberg's challenge grant.
Rendell said businesses would have to come up with about $1.3 million annually; so far he and the chamber have received pledges totaling $250,000 annually.
To raise the rest, the mayor said, he would be working the phones for a few days in January.
PRINCIPALS SIGN PACT
The fiscal consequences of absorbing the affected students into the city school system at a cost of millions was critical to Rendell's decision to step in, the mayor said, as was the fact that some of the targeted schools "are in the hardest hit of our city neighborhoods."
Additionally, the mayor said, "Catholic schools and our better public schools produce a good product for our work force."
Archdiocesan officials also looked to alumni to help with the operating deficit, now about $2 million a year. Many city alumni groups promised to raise funds for scholarships and school budgets and to recruit more students.
Each school principal signed an agreement promising to absorb the school's operating deficits starting next year and to recruit more students.
"Basically, the schools were saying to us, 'Give us the same opportunity that was given to Roman Catholic a number of years ago. Give us open enrollment. Let us do our own marketing and recruitment. Let us concentrate on certain strengths within our school,' " said Monsignor Philip Cribben, secretary of Catholic education.
Roman Catholic High School in Center City, the first archdiocesan school to operate with open enrollment, staved off closure a few years ago.
Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers, which represents the system's 900 lay high-school teachers, said open enrollment would inalterably change the schools.
"We're not now a system of schools working together. We are a system of schools where we're in competition with one another."
But for the surviving high schools - which the report had recommended for closing or mergers - the new policy seemed like a chance at salvation.
SCHOOLS TO BE MONITORED
And the promises they made to meet Bevilacqua's challenge aren't empty, either. The Archdiocese's Office of Catholic Education and the school board will monitor the five city schools each year to make sure they comply.
Archdiocesan officials said they looked favorably at the promises of city Catholic schools because the schools' alumni groups had a history of strong support.
"We were able to get alumni working," said West Catholic alum Horace Small. "We knew where to put pressure on, how to lobby. Because of our sheer numbers and sheer strength, we were able to produce what we claimed we could produce."
The suburban schools, younger
than the city schools, had smaller alumni associations that were
not as active and couldn't make those kinds of
"Money talks," said Paul Balzano, a Kennedy alum. "It appears that all of a sudden, the city plans are feasible and obviously the money is sufficient, but not for the ones in the suburbs."
As far as Bob McLaughlin, president of the St. James alumni association, is concerned, last-minute efforts of the city's movers and shakers did little for his alma mater.
"It's easy to cut St. James loose," he said. "We're kind of a poor cousin. When there was growth, the archdiocese extended into the suburbs. Now that it is withdrawing into its fortress, it feels obligated because of political pressures to protect the pockets of strength."
For McLaughlin, the fight isn't over. He wants the archdiocese to turn the school over to the alumni, who want to open it as a co-ed Catholic high school
Copyright (c) 1992 Philadelphia
June 14, 1992
"There are a lot of ghosts in those rafters," said Adam Metcalf, looking up into the curved roof above Bishop Cunningham High School's gymnasium.
It was the last day of classes at this school overlooking the Oswego River. Students acted the way people do at a funeral, hugging and sniffing back tears. The gym, where Metcalf played basketball for four years in a Crusaders uniform, was silent.
The Catholic high school will close after final exams and graduation in the next few weeks. The Syracuse Diocese announced the decision a month ago, citing shrinking enrollment. About 105 students had been expected in grades 8 through 12 next year.
Metcalf, fellow basketball player Jason Cunningham, volleyball player Heidi Allen and freshman three-sport star Suzy Branshaw studied the Section Three championship banners hanging on one wall of the gym. They looked at the Oswego County League championship banner, left over from a time when the school was Oswego Catholic and hadn't changed its name or joined the Onondaga League South Division.
"We haven't even put up this year's banners yet," Branshaw said, referring to a Class D sectional title in tennis, a runner-up finish in boys' basketball, and playoff teams in volleyball, softball and girls' soccer.
There is a wistfulness about the school these days, as the undergraduate students think about the friends they'll leave behind when they go to public school next year in Oswego, Fulton or Mexico. There is anxiety, too, for the ones who owned varsity status as Crusaders but now must try out to gain varsity status at larger schools.
IN THIS LAST of its school years since it opened in 1954, Bishop Cunningham was small enough that coaches seldom cut athletes from teams.
Boys' basketball was the school's marquee sport. A trophy case next to the school office holds brass mementos of league titles in 1959, 1960, 1972, 1975 and 1976. The Crusaders played in a cramped gym that had a stage at one end. Crowds, dotted with people who raised money for the athletic program, filled that gym with their noise on winter evenings.
"It was almost like the Celtics or Lakers, in tradition," said Denny Nicholson, a Crusaders basketball star for three years before his 1987 graduation. "You felt real special, very aware of it, when you stepped on the court. It seemed like every kid in school played basketball and played it well. We didn't have a lot of exceptional athletes, just kids who worked their tails off."
And, he said, the basketball team felt like a family. The whole school did.
Crusader boys' basketball, especially, won not with talent but with players who worked well together and learned from coach Chuck Bisesi's one-on-one teaching.
BISESI KNEW what he wanted from his teams. It was the same thing he learned at St. Lucy's in Syracuse, in the Parochial League. Both the school and league are now defunct, but Bisesi kept alive a system for melding various talents into a whole that played basketball at a frantic pace.
His 1984-85 team, featuring Kevin Broderick and Jeff Baker as its leaders, captured the Class D state championship, putting together a dream season at a time when the diocese was thinking about closing the school.
The basketball team brought fresh attention to the school. The number of students grew to around 208. But it shrank again in recent years. The diocese decided to close it.
The closing has been difficult for Nicholson's family. Of the 11 children, all but one, fifth grader Ellen, will have either graduated from Bishop Cunningham or attended it for a few years.
Kate, a senior, was chosen top female athlete. Ann, a junior, qualified for the state track championships in the 3,000 meters despite running as a one-person team. Freshman Mike started at point guard on the basketball team. He'll have to find his niche in Oswego High School next year.
Another Nicholson, Jim, is the athletic director. When the school's teachers and supporters need an example of battling against the odds, they talk about him.
LIKE HIS sister this year, Jim Nicholson was a one-person distance running program. He basically coached himself. Yet he was twice Class C state runner-up in cross country, and earned a track scholarship to Georgetown.
Nicholson said the Crusaders once had cross country teams. One runner, 1977 graduate Ross Donoghue, ran at Villanova and came close to representing the United States in the 5,000 meters at the 1984 Olympics.
Nicholson still refers to Oswego's two high schools sometimes as "Cat High" and "Pub High." He's been going to games there for so long, he remembers when Bishop Cunningham was big enough to field football and hockey teams that could win games.
But the numbers of athletes shrank, until each team had maybe four or five good players. Football ended in 1986, hockey a couple of years later.
Now it's all dissolving.
Metcalf, Cunningham, Allen and Branshaw said their younger friends are scared about going to public school. Allen, a junior, is so opposed to going that she's finishing high school as an Onondaga Community College student. She won't be eligible for OCC volleyball, but she's ready to make the sacrifice.
Nicholson said he'll leave the trophies in the display case. He doesn't know what will happen to them.
He's been ordered to give the athletes' uniforms to the diocese, for use in Catholic Youth Organization sports. He wants to give them to the athletes who wore them.
"They can't take their books and they can't take a piece of the school, like the Berlin Wall," Nicholson said. "A uniform is something tangible. It would make a nice memento. And sports is so big here, 80 percent of the kids are involved. It's almost like another class."
A mile away, Bisesi thought about life without coaching basketball.
The 1984-85 state championship trophy hangs in a hallway at his home, safe from whatever fate awaits the others. Bisesi said those Crusaders owned "a sense of destiny."
"I arrived in 1980," Bisesi said. "Thirteen years. I'm going to miss it, no question."
Copyright, 1992, The Herald
Pottsville Republican, The & Evening Herald (PA)
May 28, 2007
For many, the reality that this will be the last graduating class at Cardinal Brennan High School still hasn't sunken in.
From its origin as Immaculate Heart Academy, through unions with Shenandoah Catholic and St. Joseph high schools, the Fountain Springs school has a long tradition of faith and academic excellence.
The school's baccalaureate Mass will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in beautiful, spacious St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church, 229 N. Jardin St., Shenandoah.
And it will feature the combined Shenandoah Community Choir, which should be a source of inspiration and hope for all who attend.
Yes, it will be a sad time for many who have supported the school over the years. No doubt tears will not be in short supply.
But through the heartbreak of the announcement several weeks ago that the Catholic high school will close at the end of the current year, the Brennan family must carry on with life, buoyed by memories of what went before, confident that their work was not in vain, but rather enabled great accomplishments.
This baccalaureate service will be one to remember.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Pottsville
Republican & Evening Herald, Pottsville, PA.
June 10, 1993
The building that housed Harry Hunt Junior High School, and before that Woodrow Wilson High School, was not Portsmouth's first high school as a story said Thursday. Other high schools preceded it.
Correction published Friday,
June 11, 1993.
It's a scene becoming familiar in Hampton Roads as schools consolidate to save money - the end of the academic year means a school closing its doors for good.
Last weekend it was Norfolk Catholic High School closing to move to a new building in Virginia Beach. In recent years, the old Churchland High and Cradock High in Portsmouth, and Suffolk High in Suffolk all have closed. The same fate awaits Southhampton High next fall.
Wednesday, the site was Harry Hunt Junior High, where a morning assembly marked the final gathering of the school after 76 years as a high school and junior high.
English teacher Gerrie Phibbs has taught at Hunt for 21 years, the second-longest among the current staff. She led the auditorium packed with 700 teenagers in thank-yous to school volunteers, especially the Aviation Physiology Unit at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, which adopted the school in March.
Once or twice a week hospital volunteers worked with teachers and students, especially with problem kids who needed more attention.
``It's really too bad the school is closing because we were just getting started,'' Senior Chief Petty Officer Sandy Doyle said.
The students' attachment to the volunteers was apparent. As the school honored each Navy volunteer with a certificate, the students clapped and hooted for their favorites.
Reginald Hinson joined the eighth graders in the school chorus to sing ``So Alone,'' his deep voice resounding beyond those of the 13-year-olds beside him.
It was wasn't evident that the assembly was a goodbye to the High Street building that housed Portsmouth's first high school and has been home to the junior high since 1955.
Principal LaDaniel Gatling said students tend to be more attached to their high schools, viewing junior high as a way station on the trip to adulthood.
``It's sort of a midpoint,'' he said. ``Here they know this is a stopover.''
The few students who expressed reservations about the change said they would be sad to be separated from friends who would be at different junior high schools next year.
Shana Boone, a seventh-grader, said she would particularly miss singing in the chorus.
``We're like a big family,'' she said.
Eighth-graders Desiyea Gorihan and Terri Felton said they have gone to school together since kindergarten but only really became friends this year. Now, becuse of the changes, they will be in separate high schools.
Most students, however, did not seem sad. They screamed with delight when they spotted friends or favorite teachers in a closing slide show as five boys sang ``It's So Hard to Say Goodbye.'' Then they headed off eagerly to lunch.
Copyright (c) 1993 The Virginian-Pilot
June 4, 2007
Librarian Michelle Gilchrist contributed to this report.
Dateline: SAN DIEGO
Nina Baumgardner was allowed to attend the school of her choosing -- so long as it was a Catholic school.
On Friday, she graduated from Marian Catholic High School, just as her mother did 29 years ago. Nina said her experience was so fulfilling -- membership in the elite campus service corps known as Ambassadors for Christ, her senior-year Christian call class, the retreats at which she discussed her faith with her peers -- that she now jokes, "My mom was way too kind to give me an option."
The 170-member class of 2007 was Marian's last. The campus at 18th Street and Coronado Avenue in the south San Diego neighborhood of Egger Highlands will close this month after 47 years.
The campus will be replaced by the $80 million Mater Dei Catholic High School, which will open in September in the Otay Ranch neighborhood of Chula Vista.
"It's bittersweet," Nina said, "but I think we all realize it's time for bigger and newer things."
Bittersweet, too, because of the legal cloud that hung over Marian Catholic during its last days. The Diocese of San Diego filed for bankruptcy in February in the face of about 150 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by priests. It took a federal judge's ruling in April to clear the way for the church to spend the $14 million needed to complete Mater Dei.
The uncertainty compelled Marian teachers to reassure students that there would be a Catholic high school in South County for them this fall.
Nina mourned the school that soon will exist only in people's memories. But she knows her younger sister will enter a school in the fall that previously existed only in people's imaginations.
And Nina won't be as accommodating as her mom. It's quite simple, she said wryly: If she has children, they will go to Mater Dei.
While Nina looks forward, Nancy Newhouse, who was in Marian's first graduating class, in 1964, looks back.
Newhouse said that as a ninth-grader in 1960, she and friends buried Virgin Mary medals in the alfalfa field at 18th Street and Coronado Avenue "so the school would grow."
It did, on 20 acres donated to the church by dairyman Robert Egger. It was South County's first Catholic high school and the diocese's first coeducational high school. The church built it in about six months for $550,000.
During its first year, Marian operated at St. Charles Catholic Church before moving across the street to its permanent campus in 1961.
Almost all of Newhouse's classes were taught by priests or the Sisters of Mercy. She took Latin, which helped her understand the Mass at St. Charles.
Marian today had a predominantly lay teaching staff with the exception of one nun, one deacon and one chaplain, but the staples of Catholic education remained: There were classes in Scripture and lessons on creationism.
Beyond informing the curriculum, faith often provided a subtext for campus life that distinguished Marian from public schools.
It showed in simple things, like the way Naomi Moore paused between classes to summon strength for the rest of the day. She closed her eyes, put her hand on the statue of Our Lady of Wisdom -- mounted on the administration building -- and prayed. The football team kneeled at the statue before games.
For Susy Verdugo to use a mirror in her locker to check her makeup recently didn't make her different from a thousand other high school seniors. It was her reason for doing it.
Susy said she wanted to be presentable before she walked to the lectern to read a prayer to her schoolmates at chapel service.
"How many times do you see an entire school together?" Nina wondered aloud on her way to chapel. It happened every week at Marian.
Nina said she could recognize every student. "If I don't know their names, I know their faces," she said.
During a campus tour, Nina broke into Spanish several times to greet friends, many of whom commuted from Tijuana. The student cafe was known as "la tiendita." Mater Dei has dedicated a 10-classroom building for teaching English as a second language.
Marian needed attention in the early 1990s. Enrollment had fallen to a little more than 300, and the school went through four principals in rapid succession.
Estelle Kassebaum took over as principal in 1995 and led the school's comeback. She helped add a new entrance, had buildings renovated, brought in portable classrooms and updated curriculum.
Enrollment doubled under her leadership. She developed a student-exchange program with Japan, launched an annual fundraising campaign, revived the alumni association and obtained new computers for students and faculty.
After being named president of Marian/Mater Dei in 2004, Kassebaum raised more than $50 million for the new school. She also buried 10 medals of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the soil in Otay Ranch. So in a way, Kassebaum is Marian's savior and the woman who set in motion its obsolescence.
Last year, Shea Homes offered $31.5 million for the Marian property, which the diocese valued at $2.8 million in its bankruptcy filing. Shea Homes withdrew its offer last year "due to market condition changes," according to an e-mail from the diocese. The diocese expects the Marian property will be sold as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.
"It's going to be sad to drive by and say, 'There used to be a school there when I was younger,' " senior Javier Mawhinney said.
During the summer, movers will transport the Our Lady of Wisdom statue to the new campus. The students and staff will transport the traditions.
Mater Dei will celebrate the beginning of the school year with the Blast-off -- the annual barbecue to greet parents. Students will celebrate weekly Masses at an on-campus chapel. The school will continue to hold a baccalaureate Mass just before graduation.
Parents will still make sacrifices to send their children to the school. Tuition next year is $9,000, though many students receive financial aid.
"It's not about the facility. It's not about the name. It's about the people in the facility," Principal George Milke said.
Marian Catholic High School has graduated about 4,000 students in its 47 years.
Copyright 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
March 18, 1986
CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL CLOSING
Nearly 120 years of Catholic high school education in Key West is coming to an end amid tears, anger and pain.
"Don't they realize this is the only Catholic school in the Keys? Don't they know kids want a choice? Don't they know we want to learn, practice our faith here every day?" Jorge Rioseco, a frustrated senior, asked his teachers at Mary Immaculate High School Monday.
The Archdiocese of Miami will shut down the oldest Catholic high school in South Florida in June, citing falling enrollment and rising costs over the past 10 years. Although the archdiocese pumped $1.2 million into the school since 1978, the financial crisis never stabilized.
Officials decided Thursday
to close the high school's ninth through 12th grade classes,
Sister Marie Danielle, the Miami Archdiocese associate education
superintendent, said Monday. The seventh and eighth grades, which
boost the total enrollment to 110, will be combined with St.
Mary Star of the Sea Elementary School in a single unit, probably
housed in the high school building.