St. Michael School in Newark needs to recruit a handful of new students and raise more than $50,000 by May 17 in order to reopen for the 2011-12 school year, according to school and diocesan officials.
The 2001-12 budget St. Michael’s officials developed was based on an estimated enrollment of 95 students and showed an operating deficit of $130,000, according to Suzanne Tulloch, public-relations and development coordinator for the school and mother of two St. Michael students. That means the school must not only enroll 95 or more students for next year, but it also must raise at least $130,000 to cover the budget gap.
The school also must meet both goals by May 17, when the diocesanwide school board will meet, said Anne Willkens Leach, diocesan superintendent of schools. Board members will review the situation at their next meeting and decide what course of action to recommend to Bishop Clark.
The school simply will not be viable financially if both goals are not met, she said, noting that St. Michael Parish in Newark doesn’t have enough resources to fund the school’s deficits.
"It breaks everyone’s heart to think that we might have to close the school," Willkens Leach said. She noted, however that "the bishop makes the final call, as always."
Earlier this year St. Michael School officials began an aggressive campaign to increase enrollment and raise the necessary funds, and they kicked that campaign into high gear in recent weeks. As of May 11, 88 students were enrolled for the 2011-12 school year, and the fundraising campaign had netted $76,897 in pledges and donations. The Newark community has rallied around the school, and supporters contributed more than $12,000 to the campaign just during the weekend of May 6-8, Tulloch said.
"We’ve had such an outcropping of support in our community," she noted.
Much of that support has come from parents of St. Michael students, including Bryan and Lisa Burns, who on May 9 mailed letters appealing for support to nearly 500 alumni. The Burnses are not alumni, but also send their daughter, Faythe, to the school. Bryan Burns said St. Michael School is very important to his family, and it should be just as important to every Catholic in Wayne County because it is the county’s only Catholic elementary school.
"They do a great job educating the children, and the education is grounded in values. From where I sit, that’s the kind of students that the community and the country need right now," he said.
As the deadline approaches, school officials and volunteers are doubling their efforts to reach their goals. They’re also posting daily updates on the school’s website, http://schools.dor.org/stmichaelnew, where donors can contribute directly to the campaign via PayPal.
There’s been a lot of momentum in the last week or two, and people are coming together and working hard to save the school, Tulloch said.
"It has drawn us much closer as a school community," she said, noting that no matter what happens, she’s grateful for the relationships that have been forged and strengthened through this experience.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, contact St. Michael School at 315-331-2297.