There are still a few details to settle regarding the ongoing partnership between…
Holy Spirit Academy students will continue their Catholic education this fall.
But not at the Holy Spirit Academy.
After struggling for several years to maintain enrollment and finances, the 113-year-old school – the last Catholic school in Lawrence County – will apparently close at the end of the current school year. However, a new partnership led by Holy Spirit parish pastor, Father Joseph McCaffrey, will allow students from the academy to transfer to the Kennedy Catholic Schools family in Hermitage, with continued financial, administrative and educational support. of Holy Spirit.
The plan has already received approval from parish and diocesan authorities, and only awaits the signature of Bishop David A. Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to be launched.
“The plan is not simply to close Holy Spirit Academy, but more importantly, to unite our Catholic education efforts with the Kennedy Catholic Family of Schools,” McCaffrey said in a letter to staff and to parents. “It has to be a real partnership, and not just telling our kids to go.”
McCaffrey’s plan would draw funds that each parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is assessed to support Catholic education. Instead of returning all of that money to the diocese, every Holy Spirit student, present and future, as well as current non-Catholic enrollees, would receive $2,000 toward tuition at Kennedy’s St. John Paul II Elementary School.
Whatever remained would then be passed on to the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Additionally, Mark Ferrara, president of Kennedy Catholic Schools, said he would be happy to add Holy Spirit Advisory Board members to his own leadership team and welcome Holy Spirit clergy to work with. at the Kennedy Schools. Additionally, Holy Spirit teachers who lose their jobs would be encouraged to apply for any class openings that occur.
“It’s a partnership,” said Ferrara, a former superintendent of the Greenville and Sharpsville school districts who also spent time as a high school program coordinator and vice-principal in the Neshannock Township School District. “We don’t want people to feel like we’re swallowing them up. We have no interest in that.
“We want to learn from what they have in place to make us better and stronger together. Partnership is at the center of our concerns.
BREAK WITH TRADITION
The partnership is unusual for several reasons.
First, it is breaking with the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s approach of regionalizing its struggling schools, a program it launched in 2017 in Pittsburgh’s North Hill district.
“With regional governance,” the diocese said in a March 17 news release about the merger of St. Phillip and St. Margaret schools, “all parishes in a geographic region support Catholic school education and all have a voice in the mission of these schools.
The Holy Spirit Academy, McCaffrey said, is included in a northern region of the diocese and, under standard procedures, would be grouped with a school or schools in Butler or Beaver counties.
“The likelihood of our school disappearing is very high,” he said. “Our children would have to travel quite a distance under this arrangement.”
So McCaffrey turned his eyes to Kennedy Catholic, just 20 minutes north in an area Lawrence County residents already frequent for shopping, dining and entertainment.
The challenge was that Kennedy Catholic is in a different diocese: the Diocese of Erie.
It’s a “we’ve never done it like this” dismissal that Ferrara, for his part, applauds.
“That was one of the things that we in public schools were doing a bad job with: reaching out to do more things collectively with our peers,” he said. “So I tip my hat to Father Mac. He gets it.
“It’s not going to be easy. There will be some growing pains, but when we’re done, we’ll look back a year from now and say, “Look how we grew together.” We’ve taken the best practices from both and merged them into one.