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St. Joseph School Parents Putting a Positive Spin on a Closure Notice

Reaching an enrollment goal can keep the school open.

The Norwich Diocese has given a parental group at St. Joseph School five weeks to attract between 20 and 30 more students or the school will face closure.

But the parents are taking a positive approach to it all.

That was the word on Wednesday from Ken Gordon, the parent campaign coordinator at the school, located at 41 West St., near the intersection of Union Street.

Gordon pulled no punches in an interview on Wednesday by saying that the cloud hanging over the 105-year-old Catholic School is just another source of consternation for parents these days along with the state placing Vernon on an undefined "bottom 30" list of school systems and public school officials researching potential reconfiguration of the elementary schools.

The town's elementary schools serve students in pre-K through 5, while St. Joseph services those in pre-K through 8 and draws from Vernon, Tolland and Elington. It is currently being subsidized by the diocese.

Three years ago, the school had about 130 students in it, but as of Wednesday, the roster stood at 58 for next year, Gordon said. That was up eight from the enrollment of 50 discussed with Diocesan Superintendent John Shine in a meeting on April 19, Gordon said.

But rather than panic when Shine put the school on notice for closure, members of the parent campaign committee decided to take a pro-active approach.

They cut a deal with Shine.

"I was not prepared to negotiate, but he was willing to discuss it," Gordon said of the conversation with Shine. "It is still 20-30 but our goal is to get 25 students by May 18."

The Parent Campaign committee was to meet Wednesday night to draw up a recruiting strategy, Gordon said.

Gordon said he might be able to pick up some students whose parents are afraid to lose the neighborhood school feeling if reconfiguration goes through, but he is also worried that St. Joseph might lose some students out of frustration because of the ambiguity of its status.

"I think we can get to 25," he said.

The school picked up eight this week to get to 58, Gordon said.

Gordon said that, on aptitude tests, St. Joseph students score higher than the town and national averages.

In addition to academics, St. Joseph is known for its community service.

Some of the activities include:

• Raising funds to help pay medical bills for a 5-year-old Vernon resident suffering from a liver disorder.

• Creating knot blankets for premature babies born at Hartford Hospital.

• Baking loaves of bread and donating them to the area food bank.

• Creating more than 400 cards sent to the elderly, shut-ins and those with illnesses.

For information on the recruitment campaign, callGordon at 860-875-4146. The school can be reached at 860-875-4943.

Gordon said tuition is $335 per month to $470 per month, "depending on how active a Catholic you are."

Nancy Krupienski April 26, 2012 at 04:16 PM
That is a car payment every month...a lot of families in this economy cannot afford that in addition to after school care.
Vernon Parent April 26, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Two if you have more than one child in school. Also I don't understand "Gordon said he might be able to pick up some students whose parents are afraid to lose the neighborhood school feeling if reconfiguration goes through, but he is also worried that St. Joseph might lose some students out of frustration because of the ambiguity of its status" We did send our child to this school previously and felt a disconnect from our neighborhood during that time. It is one of the reasons we decided to send our child to the school that is located in our neighborhood.
LLC April 26, 2012 at 06:30 PM
A lot of parents don't have their priorities right. A car payment vs. an education? It would be a shame to lose this school.
Dave April 26, 2012 at 08:14 PM
I agree with LLC. A car is used up and replaced. A good education benefits a child for a lifetime. A Catholic school education is about much more than just academics. You need to decide which is more important: Your McMansion/Lexus/Disney vacations every year, or providing the best education available for your child. Perhaps another benefit of sending your child to private school is teaching them to make sacrifices for what's really important.
Nancy Krupienski April 26, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Sorry Dave and LLC but my child has a brain tumor so I have to save my money for medical expenses and the only Disney vacation we are getting is through Make a Wish. You should be ashamed...don't ever assume why someone won't plunk down 4 grand a year for education.
RJ April 26, 2012 at 10:27 PM
To Nancy, my prayers for your child and your family. Based on the comment on spending the money, there are payment plans available, as well as, some ways to get subsidies to aid in the tuition. The school is supported by the enrollment of students and not by the taxes of the town, sate or federal government, as I am sure that everyone is well aware of. I have two enrolled and still support the public schools from my property taxes. I personally have to budget for such things. Again, my prayers and blessings to all.
A proud parent April 27, 2012 at 12:50 AM
St. Joe's is a wonderful school with many great students and teachers. Having children that have attended both public school and St Joe's it would be ashame to lose an academically strong school that provides a quality education.
LLC April 27, 2012 at 10:58 AM
I'm not assuming why anyone won't pay for a private education. You yourself said that was the cost of a car payment. Things like medical bills are entirely different. I send my prayers to you and your child. I have known many parents who say they wish they could send their kids to a private school, but they "need" to go on a big vacation every year, they "need" a brand new car, they "need" to spend $300 a month on gymnastics/dance/karate lessons, they "need" to go out to eat everyday at work. There are a lot of "needs" that are simply wants. If parents scaled back on the wants there would be more money left over for what is really important.

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