January 25, 2013

St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in New Albany to close at end of school year

St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in New Albany is closing at the end of the 2012-13 school year. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in New Albany is closing at the end of the 2012-13 school year. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By John Shaughnessy

With the recent announcement that St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in New Albany will close at the end of the school year, school officials informed families that they will receive financial support from the archdiocese to enroll their children in another Catholic school in the New Albany Deanery.

“Since 2005, St. Mary Parish and its school have been running an operating deficit that will reach $1.2 million by June 2013,” noted Father Henry Tully, administrator of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in New Albany, in a Jan. 17 letter to staff members, parishioners and school families.

“The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has been loaning us the money to cover the debt. We have made every attempt to cut the budget and increase revenue, but even our best projections do not accomplish a balanced budget. With these facts, and after several discussions with archdiocesan staff, the difficult decision to close was made.”

The news about the school closing was also shared and discussed with staff members, parishioners and school families during a meeting on Jan. 17 with Father Tully and Harry Plummer, executive director of Catholic education and faith formation for the archdiocese.

“Even though the decision was only made after years of discussion and much hard work to make St. Mary’s Catholic Academy financially sustainable, it’s still a very painful one to make,” Plummer said. “Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the situation. We are committed to doing what we can to assist parents in placing their children in other Catholic schools of the deanery and helping school employees find new employment.”

In the letter and during the meeting, parish and archdiocesan officials announced that the archdiocese has agreed to forgive the $1.2 million debt that the parish has incurred.

Parents were also informed that school families with children in kindergarten through seventh grade will receive a one-time $1,000 scholarship per family if they enroll their children in a New Albany Deanery Catholic school for the 2013-14 school year. St. Mary’s Catholic Academy currently enrolls 139 students.

Families who are active members of St. Mary Parish will also be eligible for the parish tuition rate of the New Albany Deanery Catholic school in which they enroll their children for the 2013-14 school year.

“Although our beloved school will not be open next school year, the good news is that every child who attends St. Mary’s will be able to enroll at another Catholic school in the New Albany Deanery provided there is space available and the receiving Catholic school can meet the needs of the student,” Father Tully noted in his letter.

“Our archdiocesan Catholic school system is recognized as one of the best in the country, and we are committed to making a Catholic education available to all of our children.”

Father Tully said that “St. Mary Parish, the archdiocese and the receiving parish schools will be working together to ensure the smooth transfer of all our students.”

The archdiocesan human resources department and the Office of Catholic Education are also committed to assisting the school’s 24 employees, including 12 full-time teachers, officials said.

“We are concerned about all the employees of our schools—the teachers and all the other staff members,” said Ed Isakson, director of human resources for the archdiocese. “We want the employees of St. Mary’s to get first consideration of other positions in parishes and schools in the archdiocese.”

In February, Isakson plans to have the first of several meetings with school personnel to talk about such concerns as life insurance, health insurance and pension benefits.

“People have questions about those concerns,” Isakson said. “Our hope is to sit down with them in February when people have had a chance to think about those concerns.”

He also mentioned the archdiocese’s Employee Assistance Program as a resource for employees and their families.

“The closing of a school is a loss felt by employees, their spouses and their children,” Isakson said. “This program provides free and confidential counseling for employees and their families. It’s open to all employees, including part-time workers.”

While the program is not a job placement service, Isakson noted, it does offer counseling services as employees “look for other positions and discern where else God may be calling them to serve in ministry.”

“The Employment Assistance Program is an important component here,” Isakson said. “Some people may not have looked for a job for a number of years. They may not know what they qualify for. And the program could help them with that.

“We care deeply about them and their families.” †

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