BY MICHAEL RICONDA
The New York Archdiocese has slated Saint Augustine Elementary School in New City and St. Peter School in Haverstraw for closure at the end of the school year by, a decision which will displace hundreds of children and leave dozens of faculty members unemployed.
According to a press release from Step Up for SAS, an organization established to keep St. Augustine open, the Archdiocese set Saint Augustine’s savings goal for $1.245 million, funding which could not come from the Saint Augustine Parish or the Archdiocese.
Despite presenting a sustainability plan to the Saint Dominic Catholic School Region of Rockland and surpassing their goal by $855,000, the Archdiocese decided that the school was still at risk and moved to shut it down, a move which prompted Step Up to request Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s personal review of the plan.
Step Up was highly critical of the decision, which they claimed amounted to sacrificing the education of local children to satisfy the needs of other Catholic schools in Rockland County. According to Step Up president Bethann Rooney, the Archdiocese’s motives were likely to be damage control for a business model which did not accommodate all of the region’s schools.
“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Rooney said. “They need our children to go to the other five schools in order to make them viable and eliminate the deficit in the other schools.”
In North Rockland the community was flat-out distressed at the closing of St. Peter School, a major community institution which has been celebrating its 150th year in existence, making it the oldest running school in Rockland.
Some lashed out at the Catholic Church, stating the church has enough property or other money to keep the schools alive. Said deputy mayor of Pomona on a message board post started by an employee of the Rockland County Times, “The Catholic Church is sitting on billions of dollars of real estate around the world. Shame on them.”
St. Peter’s had raised well over $500,000 but this was not enough to prove viability, apparently.
Diego Aviles of Thiells tried to calm the troops and express support for the church. He said, “I disagree with many of your comments about Catholic schools. Regionalization is an important step towards building sustainable schools for the future by eliminating many of the overhead and ensuring more funds are allocated to the classroom. Unfortunately, it is a shame that these schools have to close when the cost of an education at a Catholic School is on average about $6,000 a student compared to public education where it is more around $20,000 a child.”
In New City, the Archdiocese’s decision also evoked anger and shock from parents. Daphne Momperousse, who has a son in sixth grade at Saint Augustine, said that the decision was disconcerting because it seemed to violate the family values which the church wished to instill in students and that the Archdiocese was not taking alternatives to the closure seriously.
I firmly believe their decision was made at the very beginning of this process and they never gave us a chance,” Momperousse.
St. Peter had attracted much attention to its cause in recent weeks, even earning a $5,000 contribution from celebrity news anchor Bill O’Reilly.