To the Editor: Save St. Mary’s

I just returned from a Rally in Westfield, MA aimed at Saving St. Mary’s High School. What a wonderful religious / educational campus! It contains St. Mary’s Church along with a Pre-School, Elementary, Intermediate, and, of course, the High School. It is evident that someone in their history fully realized the great importance of our children and bringing them up in the Catholic faith, in an educational environment.

While at the Rally I talked with students, some parents, and others connected with St. Mary’s High. The beautiful smiling faces of elementary students, those of the intermediate school, and the high schoolers, strongly proud and devoted to their school. Did you know that the St. Mary’s High Baseball Team won the State Championship last year? Playing against the powerhouse Eastern Mass high schools? This, in itself, is a statement.

In the past, as the result of extensive research, we have studied over 30 successful Catholic high schools and found a common strain on what makes them successful.  All  use a new business model approach. There are a lot of details, but the following, summarized, are critical to their success.

1) They still remain very Catholic and under the Diocese for spiritual guidance.

2) Yet they are managed by a professional business oriented, empowered, Board of Directors who run the school working closely with the school administration who manages the day to day operations. Together, they do so by setting goals for financial self sustainment and meeting enrollment objectives….and all it takes to achieve this under educational excellence. Again, this is achieved by remaining very much as a Catholic school.

Lots of details, but the above 2 steps are essential.

I will give you my honest impressions and concerns on St. Mary’s High. St. Mary’s appears to have the makings of a very good Committee / Board of Directors. They just need to be empowered to continue, and bring the high school to what it can be. I feel confident that they can. They should bring back a recent member, who resigned…she appears to be excellent, just the type of person and background that is needed.

I have deep concern, and is critical to reverse this situation. There seems to be some “blocking” going on that prevents the school from succeeding. A form of self destruction. This includes rejections of new student applicants while claiming low enrollment. A prevention of marketing and promoting the school. A prevention of improving and expanding the busing to and from the school. A stunting and shutting off of fundraising, and more…all seemed to be purposely aimed at closing the school. This is totally unacceptable a nd this “blocking” must be eliminated. In addition, all the negativity concerning the school must stop immediately. St. Mary’s is a great high school and the future of the school’s potential under the right form of management is immense.

St. Mary’s High School should NOT close. Under an empowered Board of Directors the school will meet both enrollment and financial goals. They will evolve to become completely self sufficient financially with no money required from the Diocese. Not only can St. Mary’s High succeed today, they should embark on a future plan that includes full athletic facilities on campus or within near proximity to the school, and other facilities, as needed.

Our children are the future of the Church, they are the future of our Diocese, they are the very future of Catholicism. We need to bring a screeching halt to shutting down our Catholic schools. We need to do just the opposite…build and expand Catholic Education! The Blessed Virgin Mary, whom the school is named after, will help us. Stay positive!

Al DiLascia

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