Students and faculty at DeSales High School in Geneva have a lot to celebrate in the upcoming school year.
Not only does the 2011-12 school year mark DeSales’ 100th anniversary, but it also is the second consecutive year in which supporters have rallied around the school and saved it from closure.
In early July Principal Gerald Macaluso informed parents, students, alumni and supporters that the school once again faced a deficit for the upcoming school year, although this one was smaller than the $450,000 deficit facing the school at the end of the previous school year.
"Last year when we talked about the deficit it was at a much higher level than it is this year. The board was very concerned that we could not go into the (2010-11) school year with a deficit of that magnitude," Macaluso said.
The DeSales community launched the Save Our School campaign in May 2010 and raised more than $370,000 by early August of that year. That brought the deficit for the 2010-11 school year to approximately $78,000, an amount the school’s board of trustees felt was manageable. They decided to allow DeSales to open in September 2010, but the school community knew it was still under pressure to maintain the school’s financial viability, Macaluso said.
This summer, DeSales’ board of trustees again said they’d like to see the school’s deficit reduced before giving the school the green light to reopen for the 2011-12 school year, Macaluso said. The school community worked hard to raise money through raffles and other fundraisers, and by late July the deficit for the coming year stood at $153,000. A group of six donors then contacted Macaluso and told him they’d like to make a significant contribution to the school.
"It will be a substantial amount, yet to be determined," Macaluso told the Catholic Courier in early August. "It has brought down the deficit. Because of the significant contributions from the donors, the board is definitely comfortable with where (the deficit) is now."
Thus, DeSales’ board of trustees announced July 27 that the school will open its doors in September for the 2011-12 school year.
"Due to the generosity of donors, who wish to remain anonymous, the board of trustees firmly believes the current deficit of $153,000 is manageable. The donors emphasize they strongly believe in the philosophy and mission of the school and want it known the gift is in recognition of DeSales High School’s 100th anniversary," the trustees said in their July 27 statement.
This generous gift will put the deficit for the 2011-12 school year significantly below $153,000, Macaluso added. Several of the six anonymous donors are DeSales alumni, but all six believe very strongly in the school, said Macaluso, noting that the donors are not looking for praise or thanks.
The donors cited several encouraging factors that led to their decision, including increased enrollment for the coming year and the development of a new five-year plan outlining business and education benchmarks, according to the trustees’ statement. DeSales had a total enrollment of 106 students for the 2010-11 school year, but by early August already had registered 116 students for the coming year, Macaluso said. DeSales’ new five-year plan set its 2011-12 enrollment goal at 119 students, he added.
"That’s our goal, and we are close to meeting it. For us that’s a good thing because obviously the more revenue you bring in through tuition, the better. What we have to be careful with is the fact that if we register too many kids, then we have to hire additional staff, which then increases expenses," he said.
Moving forward, DeSales’ leaders hope to enroll 130 students for the 2012-13 school year, Macaluso added.
"(Enrollment) would then increase, as hopefully we not only increase staff, but also are able to add a few additional courses that we are not able to offer at this point," he said.
The six anonymous donors also were encouraged by the February 2011 hiring of Jack Gallagher as DeSales’ new development director, according to the July 27 trustees’ statement. DeSales had not had a full-time development director in the last year or two, and the school is very happy with Gallagher’s performance thus far, Macaluso said.
"We need to really develop planned giving and alumni relationships. It takes more than a happenstance effort. You need someone who can legitimately address the issues in a timely fashion and in big venues and small venues, and that all takes time," Macaluso said.
The DeSales community hopes its momentum continues and plans to hold a variety of special anniversary and fundraising events throughout the school year. One of the first of these anniversary events will be a Sept. 18 memorial Mass for all DeSales alumni who have given their lives in the service of their country. Bishop Matthew H. Clark also will visit Geneva Oct. 7 to celebrate a special anniversary Mass for the school.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about DeSales’ anniversary or fundraising events, visit the school’s website at www.desaleshs.org or call 315-789-5111.