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CNBNEWS ARCHIVES: Bishop Galante Discusses the Future of Saint Mary's Grammar School

source Media Release
 
POSTED CNBNews November 29, 2007

 

  • I accept the cluster steering committee recommendation that St. Mary School,Galant3 Gloucester remain as presently configured. It also will be expected to grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget, " Bishop Galante

 

Good afternoon.

Last year I announced to the people of the Diocese the start of a comprehensive elementary school planning initiative to strengthen Catholic school education in the six southern counties of New Jersey.

This process was given the name "Faith in the Future" in recognition of how important Catholic schools are to the total formation of our young people, the confidence we have in the long-term viability of Catholic schools, and our optimism in the future of our Church.

As part of this initiative, a new funding model will be introduced in the years ahead to bring our schools greater fiscal health, while keeping tuition affordable for families who wish to choose Catholic schools for their children.  Schools also will work to enhance curriculum and facilities, and faculty compensation will be improved.   The initiative also will provide for increased levels of marketing and institutional advancement, as well as an increased role of the laity in decision-making for these schools.

This planning initiative also has looked at the way our elementary schools are configured in order to address the realities that currently confront our schools. 

What are these realities?

This diocese, like many in the Northeast, has schools that were established decades ago, often times in close proximity to each other, in areas where Catholic population has shifted or diminished.  For some schools, this has resulted in declining enrollment, under-utilized facilities, fiscal deficits and an over-reliance on parish subsidies to the detriment of the pastoral services of the supporting parishes. 

Today there are nearly 11,000 K-8 students enrolled in 47 elementary schools, 30 of which (more than half) have enrollments less than 225 students, the number normally considered necessary to sustain a single-graded school.   Many of the 47 schools finished fiscal year ended June 30, 2007 with deficits, even after parish subsidies, and had parish subsidies exceeding 30 percent of the schools' operating expenses. 

To address these realities, all schools in the diocese-which were grouped into 13 clusters by geographic region and other factors-were asked to engage in a process of planning.  Decisions regarding the first four clusters were announced last February.  Those reconfigurations resulted in a net reduction of five schools in those clusters, from 17 to 12.

The 35 schools in the remaining nine clusters have now completed this process.

Rather than planning in isolation, cluster steering committees were formed with representation from all schools in the respective clusters. They met from February to June to study demographic information, financial data, enrollment trends and facilities information in order to arrive at recommendations that will address the realities in each area of the diocese.

Preliminary recommendations from the cluster steering committees were forwarded to the diocese in June and reviewed by the Diocesan School Planning Committee during the summer months.   The Diocesan School Planning Committee in its review considered whether the preliminary recommendations adequately addressed the demographic, enrollment, financial and other realities in the cluster, whether the recommendations presented long-term solutions to the challenges facing Catholic school education in the cluster, and whether the recommendations were likely to meet the needs of school families in each cluster area.

Based on this review, observations and questions were discussed with the cluster steering committees in October.  Following this consultation, the cluster steering committees presented their final recommendations to the diocese.

I thank the steering committee members for their hard work, insight and dedication during this important, collaborative process.   I also commend these men and women for developing creative approaches that reach beyond the comfort of the status quo in order to strengthen Catholic schools.  The task was not an easy one, for planners were asked not to plan in isolation, but together with other schools.  They were asked not to save individual schools at all costs, but to do what is best for the common good and for the good of Catholic schools in each area of the diocese.  Indeed, they took to heart the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:  "Always seek what is good both for each other and for all." (1 Thes. 5:15)

Following a period of review with my advisors, and having considered carefully the final recommendations made by the cluster steering committees, I believe the following decisions will strengthen Catholic schools in our diocese:

Cluster 2A, which consists of Holy Saviour, St. John-Collingswood, Christ the King-Haddonfield  and St. Rose of Lima-Haddon Heights: 

  • I accept the Cluster 2A steering committee recommendation that Christ the King and St. Rose of Lima schools remain as presently configured.  However, they will be expected to maintain or grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget.
  • The cluster steering committee had recommended that St. John and Holy Saviour schools remain as presently configured.  However, given their close geographic proximity (just over a mile apart), their ongoing struggles with enrollment (164 students enrolled this year at Holy Saviour and 157 at St. John's), large parish subsidies to the schools, and inconsistent Kindergarten enrollment, the prospect of a turnaround is, unfortunately, highly unlikely.  Therefore, in the face of this reality, in the interest of the common good, and with the objective of strengthening Catholic school education for the entire cluster, I have decided that it will be necessary for Holy Saviour to merge with St. John, Collingswood as a newly-named school at the St. John site beginning with the 2008-09 school year.

Cluster 2B, which consists of Queen of Heaven-Cherry Hill, St. Peter Celestine-Cherry Hill, St. Stephen-Pennsauken and St. Peter-Merchantville: 

  • I accept the Cluster 2B steering committee recommendation that St. Peter Celestine and Queen of Heaven merge as a newly-named school at the St. Peter Celestine campus beginning with the 2008-09 school year. 
  • I accept the cluster steering committee recommendation that St. Peter School-Merchantville and St. Stephen School remain as currently configured, with annual evaluations beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.  All schools in this cluster will be expected to maintain or grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget.

Cluster 3, which consists of Annunciation-Bellmawr, St. Francis de Sales-Barrington, St.Teresa-Runnemede and St. Mary-Gloucester:

  • I accept the Cluster 3 steering committee recommendation that Annunciation and St. Francis de Sales Schools merge as a newly-named school at the St. Francis site beginning with the 2008-09 school year.   
  • I accept the cluster steering committee recommendation that St. Teresa School  remain as presently configured.  However, it will be expected to grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget.  Enrollment at this school also will be monitored annually to determine how changes made in neighboring Cluster 5 will impact St. Teresa's enrollment. 
  • I accept the cluster steering committee recommendation that St. Mary School, Gloucester remain as presently configured. It also will be expected to grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget.

Cluster 4, which consists of Our Lady of Grace/Holy Rosary-Somerdale, St. Lawrence-Lindenwold and St. Luke-Stratford: 

  • I accept the Cluster 4 steering committee recommendation that Our Lady of Grace/Holy Rosary, St. Lawrence and St. Luke merge as a newly-named school at the St. Luke campus beginning with the 2008-09 school year, with enrollment monitored to determine the need for future expansion. In the meantime, modular units will be utilized to provide for additional space, if needed.

Cluster 5, which consists of St. Mary-Williamstown, St. Agnes-Blackwood and St. Jude- Blackwood:

  • I accept the Cluster 5 steering committee recommendation that St. Agnes and St. Jude Schools merge as a newly-named school beginning with the 2008-09 school year.  Current facilities will be utilized for the time being, with a single principal, assistant principal and a single school board, while allowing enough time to evaluate enrollment trends. The school will then merge into a single campus at St. Jude within two to three years. This will allow time for any needed expansion of the St. Jude facility.
  • I accept the Cluster 5 steering committee recommendation that St. Mary, Williamstown proceed immediately with their plan for construction of pre-school space. Any plans for construction of a 3-graded school will wait until an evaluation of enrollment trends that result from neighboring cluster reconfigurations.

Cluster 6, which consists of Assumption-Atco, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-Berlin and St. Joseph Regional School-Hammonton:

  • I accept the Cluster 6 steering committee recommendation that Assumption, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Joseph Regional Schools remain as presently configured.  These schools, however, will be expected to maintain or grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget.

Cluster 8, which consists of Bishop Guilfoyle-Carney's Point, Guardian Angels-Gibbstown, St. Bridget-Glassboro, St. Catherine of Siena-Clayton:

  • I accept the Cluster 8 steering committee recommendation that St. Bridget and St. Catherine Schools merge as a newly-named school at the St. Catherine site beginning with the 2008-09 school year. Modular classrooms will be provided to accommodate full enrollment, while enrollment trends will determine the need for future school expansion.
  • I accept the Cluster 8 steering committee recommendation that Guardian Angels (currently a dual campus school) and Bishop Guilfoyle remain as presently configured.  Both will be expected to grow current enrollment, implement institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school boards and operate with a balanced budget.

Cluster 11, which consists of Blessed Sacrament-Margate, Our Lady Star of the Sea-Atlantic City, St. Augustine-Ocean City, St. James-Ventnor and St. Joseph, Somers Point:

  • I accept the Cluster 11 steering committee recommendation that Blessed Sacrament and St. James Schools merge as a newly-named school at the St. James site, with annual monitoring to determine whether need exists to build to provide additional classroom space.
  • The Cluster 11 steering committee, it must be noted, recommended that Saint Augustine School should be given more time to reverse current trends.  However, given the long-term decline in enrollment at Saint Augustine (from 190 in 2002 to 112 this year), given the deficits that have resulted from significant under-enrollment ($293,000 last year before the parish subsidy), and given the number of incoming students needed to replace graduating 8th graders (kindergarten enrollment is only 17 students), the prospect of a turnaround is, unfortunately, highly unlikely.  Therefore, in the face of this reality, in the interest of the common good, and with the objective of strengthening Catholic school education for the entire cluster, the closure of St. Augustine School at the end of the 2007-08 school year is necessary.    Students will be given preference for registration at St. Joseph Regional School, Somers Point until the close of the registration process on February 15, 2008.
  • I accept the Cluster 11 steering committee recommendation that St. Joseph Regional School remain as presently configured.   The school, however, will be expected to maintain or grow current enrollment, institute institutional advancement programs, re-constitute their school board and operate with a balanced budget.
  • I accept the Cluster 11 steering committee recommendation that Our Lady Star of the Sea remain as presently configured, as it serves the needs of a growing, multicultural community in Atlantic City.

To emphasize, all schools, whether they will remain as currently configured or whether they will be merged, will be expected to meet benchmarks set by the diocese in order to ensure that they will be strong well into the future.  All will be expected to maintain or grow their enrollment; all will be asked to re-constitute their boards; all will be expected to employ advancement directors beginning with the 2008-09 school year, and all will be expected to operate with a balanced budget. The Office of Catholic Schools of the Diocese will monitor these schools for their efforts to meet these benchmarks. 

Cluster 1, which consists of five urban schools in and around Camden city, has formed a committee to develop a plan to create a consortium of schools to serve the needs of the people of Camden.  The committee will explore a new governance structure for these schools, with a Board of Trustees, an executive director and a business manager to run these schools.   A separate endowment will be established to support a significant portion of the operating costs of these schools, which serve a population which struggles to meet even basic costs of living.  As such, St. Cecilia (Pennsauken) and Sacred Heart, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral and Holy Name Schools in Camden will remain open for the 2008-09 school year.

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