Catholic Free Press

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  • Nov
  • 22

St. Mary school gets reprieve from certain closing

Posted By November 22, 2013 | 11:20 am | Local
St. Mary's graduates from June 2013
St. Mary's graduates from June 2013

By William T. Clew

The decision to close St. Mary Junior/Senior High School has been put on hold until the end of Catholic Schools Week in late January to see whether a viable plan can be developed to keep the school open, Bishop McManus said Tuesday.
Father Thaddeus X. Stachura, headmaster and pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, announced at Masses last weekend that the school would close at the end of the school year because it was losing money.
He said that enrollment had dropped in recent years because, in a poor economy, some parents could no longer afford the cost of tuition. He said the elementary school, which has pupils in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, will remain open. Both schools are operated by the parish. The junior/senior high school has an enrollment of 93 students, according to Thomas Olson, principal.
The bishop issued the following statement Tuesday:
“Given the surge of interest by alumni, family and friends in keeping the school open with support for increased enrollment and financial resources, I have asked Father Stachura to allow a 75-day period for discussions to ensue in order to determine if a viable plan can be developed. If by the end of Catholic Schools Week in late January a viable plan cannot be developed to raise sufficient funds from outside the parish and increase the enrollment to make the school viable, then the closing needs to proceed in order to allow sufficient time to enroll students into other Catholic Schools in the city.”
Mr. Olson said he, the students and the faculty “are thrilled” by the decision of the bishop and Father Stachura to postpone the decision to close the school.
“We will take every opportunity in the next 75 days to keep St. Mary’s open and vibrant,” he said. “We appreciate the opportunity given to us by the bishop and Father Stachura. There is a lot of energy going on in school and out of school among parents, alumni and students.”
He said that when he read the bishop’s statement to the school, he “heard cheering from the students.” He said members of the faculty came in to exchange high-fives with him.
He said that, in the past, he had a meeting with a mother whose child had transferred to St. Mary’s and did very well after having trouble in a public school. He said she told him that St. Mary’s “is a hidden jewel in the City of Worcester.”
Parents and friends of St. Mary’s rallied in front of the school Monday morning to show support for keeping it open.
Mary Quist, who graduated from St. Mary’s last year and is a freshman at Fitchburg State University, said that after her family received a letter from the school notifying them that the school will be closed, she and her father, Stephen, opened a Facebook page, “Save St. Mary’s,” to gather support and try to keep the school open. By yesterday, the Facebook site had received nearly 1,000 “likes.” She said she hopes to raise money and get alumni to donate funds  to save the school.
She is doing this, she said, because at St. Mary’s, where she spent six years, she always had  “amazing teachers” who “take teaching personally” and would do anything to help students learn.
“I wouldn’t be half the person I am without them,” she said. They nominated her for the Central Massachusetts Young Heroes award for her work for the Children’s Smile Coalition and she was one of 10 award winners.
She said her brother, Tyler, is a sophomore at St. Mary’s. She said she plans to transfer from Fitchburg State to Worcester State University at the end of the semester  in January so she can devote more time to trying to keep St. Mary’s open.
St. Mary’s has been described as a college preparatory school. Most of its graduates have gone on to college. Mr. Olson, in his second year as principal, was guidance counselor for three years. In his time at the school, graduates have gone on to such colleges and universities  as the College of the Holy Cross, Anna Maria, Worcester State University, Fitchburg State University, UMass Dartmouth, Worcester Polytechnic Institution, Providence College, Assumption College, St. Anselm College and Suffolk University, among others.
St. Mary’s sports teams have been competitive over the years. The Eagles often played against schools with much larger enrollments. For two consecutive years, 1959 and 1960, the St. Mary’s Eagles  were the Class B New England Catholic high school basketball champions. And in 1964, St. Mary’s became the only Worcester high school to capture the New England High School basketball championship.