Springfield Diocese Takes Control Of St. Mary's High School In Westfield
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has taken control of the last parish-based high school in western Massachusetts.
Just a week before the new school year begins at St. Mary’s High School in Westfield, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski announced the private Catholic school is now under new management.
"This morning, I am formally announcing that St Mary's High School will become a diocesan school," Rosanski said while addressing reporters and others who had gathered in the school's gymnasium.
The diocese assuming control of the high school from St. Mary’s Parish is the result of recommendations made by a commission appointed by Rozanski last year to chart the future of Catholic education in western Massachusetts in the face of declining enrollments and rising costs.
"This is a very positive step," declared Rozaski.
Rozanski first announced the change in a letter dated August 17 to members of the St. Mary’s Parish and school communities. Rozanski and Daniel Baillargeon, the superintendent of the diocesan schools, held a news conference at the high school Wednesday to answer questions about the move.
There should not be any immediate noticeable changes, they said. The school staff that has committed for the upcoming year will remain in place.
St. Mary’s High School, which was founded in 1898, nearly closed after the 2018 school year, but was given a reprieve.
In examining the school’s operations, officials said it was functioning as a regional school with a large percentage of students coming from communities throughout western Massachusetts and even Connecticut. But the high school was not financially sustainable for the parish, which also operates an elementary school.
Baillargeon said he is confident the diocese can successfully run St. Mary’s High School.
"We belive that St. Mary's is a vital part of Westfield., a vital part of the Catholic school system in our diocese, and we want to protect that vitality going forward," said Baillargeon.
The Springfield diocese operates Pope Francis High School in Springfield, which has an enrollment of almost 400 students. St Mary’s High School will start the school year with 87 students.
" Running a small school provides certain challenges, but with a reconstituted board of directors with a good strategic plan, prudent enrollment growth, and good business practices a small Catholic high school can do a lot of great things that maybe a larger Catholic high school can not," said Baillargeon.
St. Mary’s High School Principal Matt Collins said the response from parents he’s spoken with about the change has been “positive.”
"We ask parents when they enroll their child as a freshman to make a four-year committment to us and what they ask in return is for that commitment back to them," said Collins. " This shows the committement from the school and the diocese."
The current parish school board will remain in place to oversee the elementary school. A new board with limited jurisdiction will be created to help support the high school.