The following is the statement by Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski regarding the plans for secondary education and the Diocese of Springfield.
Today I am happy to share with you the plan which emerged from our recent facilitated process regarding the challenges we face with sustaining Catholic secondary education.
As you know in November at my request an expedited facilitated dialogue process trying to resolve the many questions and concerns regarding Cathedral was undertaken. In late January, over two days at the Genesis Spiritual Life Center, all issues and challenges were put on the table. After much conversation, and after looking at many options, the plan which emerged as the only one which met our objectives was to engage the Holyoke Catholic community and pursue the creation of a new regional Catholic High School.
Bringing together two great legacies as a new school for what would be an exciting new chapter in Catholic education here in western Massachusetts.
As soon as that proposal came forth, seeing there were no delegated members of the Holyoke Catholic community at the problem solving session to represent their concerns, all discussion of any particulars was set aside. This includes any designation for the site of a new regional school.
I have since met personally with both schools’ boards, as well as with the Diocesan School Board and Finance Council. They have all been supportive of the plan in general terms but understand there are many miles to go in making this a reality. I have assured them that the process of creating this new school will include input from all parties.
I want to stress that no details, other than the concept of a new regional school, have been decided. Today I am presenting this plan at the 35 thousand foot level, there will be much work ahead to manage all the details and bring this in for a safe and successful landing.
In order to get this process started I have asked Dr. Paul Gagliarducci, former superintendent of schools for both Somers, CT and the Hampden/Wilbraham Regional School district, to chair this new Catholic Secondary Education Initiative.
He will be aided by a board which will be named in the coming weeks. Dr. Gagliarducci participated in the problem solving sessions and was very helpful. Most importantly he has background working with constituency groups and building new academic facilities.
Assisting him will be the educational consultants Partners in Mission. They will help with developing marketing and development strategies for the new school. Partners comes to us as a known and successful entity, having provided invaluable help to St Michael’s Academy in recent years.
Among the many early questions that must be addressed is the eventual site for the new school. The current short term goal would be to bring together the student bodies by the fall of 2016. As for the permanent site I have encouraged them to look at all possible sites certainly including the Surrey Road location. This will include a demographic analysis as to the best possible location in light of what is available on the diocesan inventory and if deemed necessary elsewhere.
In recent weeks I have contemplated and prayed over this decision quite a bit. I have recalled that throughout the history of our Church, our ability to change and adapt has been central to our mission of spreading the Good News.
While I am very excited about the possibilities this plan offers, at the same time I recognize that this new entity will mean some sacrifices and a sense of loss on behalf of both the Holyoke Catholic and Cathedral communities.
To this I hope we can take a lesson from the first Sisters of St Joseph who came to our diocese from New York and started the first Cathedral High School in a few rooms above the Cathedral Main Altar in 1883. They left behind what was comfortable and known to them, for that which was uncertain. They took a leap of faith and for over 130 years that mission has continued.
So today we have every reason to be hopeful as we embark on this new journey together. Of course the eventual long-term success of this new school or any of our Catholic schools lies with parents who will choose a Catholic education for their children and to our faithful alumni who support these school. I believe we have been guided in faith on a path which is sustainable.