St. Mike's awaits diocese decision on schools

Gwen Chamberlain
Suppoters of St. Michael’s School in Penn Yan say enrollment figures are up, so the school shouldn’t be listed with those recommended for closure.

Staff and supporters at St. Michael’s School in Penn Yan are working to re-assure parents that the school is on solid ground, despite reports last week that a task force may recommend some Catholic Schools in the diocese be closed.

“It’s a negative thing from our perspective, says Principal James Tette, Ph. D., adding, “We’ve been growing here. We just added another five students and our enrollment continues to climb.”

Total enrollment at the Penn Yan school is now 110 pupils.

“This is the highest level of enrollment we have had in about 10 years,” says Tette.

Tette says he wants to dispel concerns that St. Michael’s School could be one of the schools on a rumored list of those recommended for closing.

He says local efforts to strengthen the Penn Yan school, which serves children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade are encouraging.

The Catholic Diocese of Rochester is reviewing a study that recommends ways to address its financial concerns. A plan may be announced sometime this month, according to David Kelly, associate director of Stewardship, Development and Communications.

Bishop Matthew Clark assembled a task force this past September to study critical financial issues facing Rochester Catholic schools. They include: A more than 50 percent decline in enrollment in the past decade; rising tuition costs; and a growing budget deficit.

The diocese is not releasing the task force’s specific recommendations and will not comment regarding any possible cuts or closings.

The Task Force studied many options to stabilize and strengthen Catholic Education. It completed its work on Jan. 3 and issued several recommendations. Bishop Clark is now considering the recommendations but has made no decisions at this time.

“St. Mike's is the only Catholic school in all of Yates County and is strongly supported by the surrounding community. The Task Force also found that St. Michael's in Penn Yan is not one of the schools suffering declining enrollment, in fact, St. Michael's School has seen strong and steadily increasing enrollment and it is one of the most successful Catholic Schools in the diocese,” adds Gloria Long, a volunteer spokesperson at the school.

There are 49 schools in the 12-county diocese consisting of Monroe County and parts of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, according to the Web site:

“ We have a new teacher in Grade 2, Mrs. Eileen Wunder, and a new teacher in the pre-School classroom, Mrs. Gail Viele.  Gail is also teaching computer technology to all classes.  Recently we were successful in securing a grant for another interactive whiteboard.  This type of equipment is revolutionizing the classroom instruction program. We continue to make our curriculum relevant to the 21st Century beginning with our Science program. We are making it even more meaningful for our students. 

The recently completed Science Fair is one example of the excellence of this program.

The Early Childhood program in the pre-Kindergarten classroom continues to be very attractive to parents of children of the age of 4, as enrollment has reached 30 students.  We invite members of the Yates County community to come and observe our classes and to tour the school,” said Tette in a statement released last week in response to the task force report.

“I just want to convey we have  strong school and we have a great group of people working here to keep making improvements, ” he adds.