On Monday the D&C ran an article on the declining enrollment woes at the Monroe County Catholic School System.
As of August 12 - with just 4 weeks left before schools reopens - the MCCS System had registered 3,371 students. That is some 351 (or 9.4%) fewer children than last year, in spite of a new advertising campaign.
While MCCS Superintendent Anne Willkens Leach still claims that she expects the 2009-10 enrollment to match last year's, she has already taken steps that indicate she really doesn't believe her own press releases, cutting "about five positions in advance of this school year."
Also, in an attempt to help with what is sure to be a challenging budgetary situation, the diocese plans to institute "a new Sunday collection for Catholic schools."
The poor economy is almost certainly having an effect on enrollment, but other factors also seem to be playing a role.
One of these factors, in the opinion of parent Lynn Ringholz, is that "the Diocese of Rochester has completely lost sight ...of who their stakeholders are."
She was referring to the recent ousting of Mr. Joe Holleran as principal at St. Lawrence School in Greece. It seems that the MCCS System, as part of its restructuring last year that resulted in class sizes approaching 40 children, promised principals that they would receive classroom aides to help with those large classes.
However, when the system's actual 2008-09 enrollment missed its 4,000 student target by some 7.0%, the diocese reneged on some of the promised aides. Mr. Holleran then opted to use funds already raised by St. Lawrence students and parents to pay for the aides the diocese would no longer provide. This apparently aroused the ire of diocesan officials and Mr. Holleran became history last June. (More details here.)
Holleran declined to speak about the specifics of his departure but did not refute Ringholz's account.
"I think the sense I have of the faculties and the principals is that they're very much wanting to trust the Catholic schools office and the bishop," said Holleran, who accepted a job teaching theology at an area school.
"These are things that we've been looking for, for many years: that visible support, that vocal support."
Note that Mr. Holleran never says that that principals and faculty members have ever felt that they could trust the Catholic schools office and the bishop.
His omission speaks volumes.