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St. Mary’s High now a diocesan school

Community members fill the Saint Mary’s High School parking lot to show their support and commitment in finding a way to keep the school open last spring. (File Photo)

WESTFIELD – St. Mary’s High School is now a diocesan school.

The former parish school was operated and funded by the St. Mary’s Parish, which also operates and funds the St. Mary Elementary School and preschool. Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, sent a letter to families Aug. 17 announcing the switch.

“In light of the recommendations from the Pathways to Faith Commission, I have decided to change St. Mary’s Parish High School from a parish school to a diocesan school,” Rozanski wrote. “This change will be effective Aug. 19, 2019.”

The Pathways report recommended that each school function in a model that best serves their community, Rozanski continued.

“It is clear from my observations that the high school at St. Mary’s functions more as a diocesan school,” he wrote. “This is due to the large percentage of students who attend other parishes, not specifically St. Mary’s Parish, making it a regional option for Catholic families in Westfield and surrounding communities.”

Rozanski said it was “unrealistic” that St. Mary’s could support two schools financially.

“By making St. Mary’s High School a diocesan school, the Diocese of Springfield is committing to its long-term vitality,” Rozanski stated.

For the most part, students and families in the high school will see little change. Principal Matthew Collins said he is “excited” about the announcement.

Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield. (Photo submitted)

“The diocese has been working very closely with the high school and the elementary school over the past year. The decision to make the high school a diocesan school shows the level of support and dedication to the St. Mary’s community for years to come,” said Collins. “We are very excited to continue working closely with the diocese now and in the future.” 

Members of the St. Mary’s Parish School Board were hopeful following the letter; last year, the high school was in danger of closing.

“I am pleased that the Bishop sees the academic, social, and spiritual growth that St. Mary’s High School provides to the young adults of the Springfield Diocese and is willing to invest diocesan resources to ensure St. Mary’s continued success,” said Board President Erin Fahey Carrier.

Carrier said the board enlisted the help of local consulting firm Management Solutions Northeast to facilitate a six-month strategic planning effort to develop a sustainable educational model that meets community needs now and in the future.

“Through countless subcommittee meetings and biweekly strategic planning sessions the board has invested over 250 hours in the creation of this plan,” she said. “The strategic planning initiative was a direct result of Bishop Rozanski’s request this past January that St. Mary’s develop a sustainable mission-based Catholic schooling model.”

Carrier said the plan focuses on six areas: Curriculum, engagement, enrollment, finance, marketing, relationships and tuition. These areas align with recommendations outlined in the Pathways of Faith Report to revitalize the Catholic schools in the Springfield Diocese. 

“When we began the process I knew diocesan support of the St. Mary’s Strategic Plan would be crucial for long term success and I hope the change in governance structure is proof of the diocese’s new commitment to supporting, guiding, and leading Catholic education in all schools across Western Massachusetts,” said Carrier.

Rozanski promised that the current high school staff will remain intact for the upcoming academic year. There will be a newly constructed board to serve the needs of the high school.

“The Board of Limited Jurisdiction will work to support the school in its operations, including finances, strategic planning and facilities,” said Rozanski, noting that efforts to create a five-year strategic plan “will not have been done in vain.”

A new parish priest will serve the high school as chaplain.

The bishop acknowledged the many challenges the school community has faced recently.

“I know there has been a lot of change in the past year in the parish and school community,” he wrote. “It truly is my desire that this decision will provide the stability and support needed for St. Mary’s elementary and secondary schools to continue to flourish for many years to come in their service of the young people of the Diocese of Springfield.”

Rozanski said that although the two schools will be governed in different ways, he hopes “St. Mary’s will still function like one community of faith.”

Management Solutions Northeast is a Western Massachusetts consulting firm, owned by Westfield resident Chris Nagle, that leverages over a decade of leadership experience in Fortune 100 and privately held companies to help organizations plan and execute sound growth strategies. 



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