Wednesday, January 20, 2010

St. Joseph School to revert to being parish run

CatholicCourier.com is reporting that St. Joseph School in Penfield will revert to parish school status at the end of the current school year.  Discussions are also underway, according to the diocese, that may lead to a similar change at St. Louis in Pittsford and St. Rita in Webster. Similar talks are also going on with St. Lawrence in Greece, according to a report last week by Channel 10 News.

Tuition to rise at St. Joseph School

St. Joseph Parish will raise tuition by about 10% to $3,300 for the 2010-11 school year. Tuition has been set by the diocese at $2,950 for the last two years.  The diocese has yet to say anything about its tuition plans for next year.

MCCS 2009-10 enrollment down

DOR spokesman Doug Mandelaro is quoted as saying that there had been "an 8-percent enrollment drop at the remaining schools this past year."  The 2008-09 MCCS enrollment has been reported at 3,700 students. With St. Joseph's enrolment at just over 400, an 8% drop at the remaining schools translates into a loss of of about 265 students, or a 2009-10 enrollment level of about 3,435 students. 
Two years ago the diocese indicated that it needed over 4,000 students to break even, given its tuition rate of $2,950.  It would therefore appear that the MCCS budget is now under considerable strain.

The demographic shift - again

Mandelaro attributed the drop in enrollment to both the economic downturn and "changes in demographics."  It must be noted that for the last two years the diocese has been citing a demographic shift as a cause of various ills ranging from declining Mass attendance to declining MCCS enrollment, but that it has yet to publish the data upon which it bases that claim.

No closed school will be allowed to reopen

Mandelaro confirmed an earlier report that the diocese will not allow any of the 13 schools closed by Bishop Clark in 2008 to reopen as parish schools.
"None of the closed schools are being reopened," he said, noting that one reason Bishop Clark approved the task force's recommendation on school closings was concern that if some or all of the schools slated for closure had been allowed to remain open, they might have drawn students away from the county's other 11 schools, thereby destabilizing the entire school system.
That concern persists.

A parish school: A "wonderful opportunity ... for the growth of our parish"

The story quotes St. Joseph pastor Fr. Jim Schwartz on the relationship between a parish and its school ...
"From a parish perspective, faith formation is a major parish priority as it is expressed in Catholic school," Father Schwartz said. "We see this as a rich and wonderful opportunity to provide faith formation for the growth of our parish."
Father Schwartz said he is optimistic that local control over the school will encourage parishioners to feel more connected to it, allowing the school to continue providing a high-quality education ...
"The viability and the future of the school has just taken a giant step forward," Father Schwartz remarked.
All of which leads one to wonder just what Fr. Schwartz' assessment of "the viability and the future of the school" would have been, had it remained under MCCS control.

Why does it always seem to be about the money?

While DOR does not release the weekend collection figures of its parishes, it does publish their CMA assessments.  And, since a parish's CMA assessment is based largely on the size of its average weekly collection, these assessments can give us a good picture of our parishes' relative incomes.
With this in mind it is interesting to note that the four parishes that have or may regain control over their schools are among the nine in all of DOR with the highest CMA assessments. Indeed, only one other parish (Peace of Christ) in this top nine has a Catholic school on its property.
So it looks like just about the only parishes to be considered for, in Fr. Schwartz' words,  "wonderful opportunit[ies] ... for the growth of our parish" are those who are already doing pretty well for themselves.
I guess the rest of us will just have to fend for ourselves.

UPDATE: 13WHAM.com is reporting that the reversion of St. Lawrence School in Greece to parish control is now a done deal.  The change-over will take effect at the end of the current school year.

UPDATE: WHEC.com also has a report on this story. At least one St. Joseph parent is quite happy with the new arrangement ...

Since Bishop Mathew Clark closed 13 Catholic schools in 2008, there has been some lingering resentment and skepticism. Parents worried which schools might be next? But parents who spoke today say they like this move.

"It is a good thing. It's actually a very positive thing. It's a relief," said parent Christine Sebastian. Instead of sending her son's tuition money to the Diocese, it will now go directly to the St. Joseph's parish school. "I mean, for years we've worried every timed the tuition list comes out, which schools are going to close. And honestly, the anxiety, the fear is now gone. We can raise money for areas that we wanted to spend money in. And now we can do that."

3 comments:

sunny said...

I had a feeling tuition would change at the schools they "allowed' to be parish run. They are the schools that most likely could do so and still remain full. As you pointed out they are the more "affluent" parishes.
I am so tired of the diocese's explanation for why enrollment is down. They have no clue, because they don't ask. We did not leave because of economics or shifting demographics. We left because the school we were forced into when HC closed was deficient in a number of areas.

cathdad said...

Anybody could have predicted the drop in enrollment. It has nothing to do with the economy or "demographics". Two years ago, with few exceptions, like St. John Neuman and St Pius, the remaining schools had waiting lists and about 30 kids in a classroom, and still were short of the 4000 they said they needed. People put up with the overcrowding, and the longer commutes to school, because they were already in the system and weren't prepared to leave. However, as time goes on, people aren't going to enter the system to pay to put their kids in such crowded classes, and travel farther to do it. Over time, an equilibrium of class size that parents can accept will always be reached. And the diocese does not have a business plan that will survive at those numbers.

I don't know about Holy Cross, but when Holy Trinity pledged all that money to stay open, that wasn't all they did. They had a business plan for an independent school that was heavily influenced by Archangel and St. John Bosco. They were prepared to be solvent being small. As a matter of fact they planned on being smaller than the size of the waiting list at St. Ritas at the time to counter the claim that by being open they would have "hurt the system".

I'll feel sorry for St. Ritas if next year they are forced into the parish school thing. The diocese has already turned them into a regional school, but will force one parish to shoulder the burden. I'm really starting to think that, barring a 180 from the next bishop's administration, in 10 or 15 years it will be more likely there will be a school back at HT, due to the diocese setting up St Ritas to fail. And what chance would there be for St Ritas to open an independent school their way after the diocese will put it on their heads to close the school they already have.

Mike said...

Cathdad,

Holy Cross had a similar plan, put together by some very capable people. Like HT, they were not planning on stuffing as many kids as possible into each classroom in order to achieve financial stability. Most, if not all, of these people were parents of HC students; they knew that wouldn't work.

DOR, however, refuses to treat parents as major stakeholders, doesn't involve them in their planning, and continues to pay the price for that folly.

It's been that way since the onset of the quadrant system in 1988-89, when they had 39 schools and 16,000+ students. Now they have 11 schools and less than 3,500 students.

Wasn't Einstein's definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? By that standard DOR is insane.