February 3, 2019
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE PRESCHOOL
For many years the St. Paul the Apostle Preschool has provided early childhood education in our beloved parish. I am always happy to meet individuals who tell me that they are alumni. Sadly, St. Paul the Apostle Preschool will graduate its last class in June of this year. I made this sad decision on Epiphany Tuesday, January 8, 2019, and communicated it to Mrs. Gayle Crimarco, the Director of the program, personally in a cordial conversation on Thursday January 10, 2019. I wrote a letter to the parents on January 14, 2019, informing them that the Preschool parish program would close in June 2019. (My letter to the parents is printed below.) I was most anxious to communicate the information to the parents of the children in the program, because I did not want the children to begin registering for the program and I was most anxious that they have ample time to place the children in other early childhood programs.
In an effort to address some concerns and misinformation, as Pastor, I would like to share with you some background to the closing of this parish program of the Preschool. Why have I made the decision to end our parish program?
After consultation with several pastors and my closest parish advisors, as well as school administrators, and diocesan officials, and, only after deep prayer over the Holy Time of Christmas, I based my decision on the following factors:
1. Declining Enrollment
There are currently 54 children in the Program (all three levels). In June of this year 28 of them will graduate.
Assuming all the other students would have remained, we would begin with 26 students in the upcoming Fall. We would have hopefully registered some more children, but obviously were anticipating a significant drop in enrollment for next school year. (In its heyday, the program had as many as 125 Students).
At present there are eight (8) St. Paul’s families participating in the program totaling 13 of the 54 children. This is fewer than 25% of the children in the program. More than 75% of the children in our parish program are not from families who are parishioners.
There are 24 children in the program who are Catholic. The other thirty (56%) are of various faiths: Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and several Protestant denominations.
As we know the demographics of our area have changed over the years so we would not anticipate a large influx of Catholics or St. Paul parishioners.
2. Parish Subsidy
The parish subsidy for the program (Net Cost of Program WITH Fixed Expense Allocation) for Fiscal Year 2018 was $41,896. The parish subsidy for FY2017 was $44,570; the parish subsidy for FY2016 was $15,118, and the parish subsidy for FY2015 was $4,134.
Each year our parish must remit to the Diocese of Rockville Centre a diocesan assessment. As a parish program the revenue generated by the Preschool (minus classroom expenses) is assessed by the diocese at 7.4%. In real numbers this means that our parish must remit to the diocese for the Preschool program $21,473 (FY 2018). This will then be an expense that will be saved.
Separate and apart from the subsidy for the preschool program, our parish must remit an assessment to the Diocese for the support of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese (both High Schools and Elementary Schools) . The amount of the assessment is based upon annual parish collection revenue. For FY2018 this assessment was $75,530. It must be clearly understood that this assessment is completely separate from the Preschool and the status of the Preschool does not affect this assessment. All parishes, with or without a preschool program, are assessed annually.
As can be seen, there has been a decline in enrollment and thus a larger subsidy. In order to delete or even reduce the parish subsidy, the tuition would have to be raised to an amount that would be a sacrifice for many young families This parish subsidy is a significant outlay for our small parish for a program servicing only eight parish families.
3. Retirement of Administrative Staff
On Tuesday November 27, 2018, Mrs. Gayle Crimarco, the Director of the program, and Mrs. Debbie Oliva, the Administrator of the program, informed me that they would both be retiring in June of 2019. They submitted their letters of retirement dated November 26, 2018. They informed the faculty of their June retirement shortly before the Christmas Break. You will notice that in the letter to the parents I wrote of the outstanding service Mrs. Crimarco and Mrs. Oliva have given the parish for many years. Between them there is over 40 years of experience and dedicated service. As I wrote to the parents, they are remarkable women and completely dedicated to the program and the children. I know you join me in wishing them well in their well-deserved retirement and pray that God Our Lord will bless them with many years in health and happiness.
In my initial correspondence to the parents dated January 14, 2019, I did not mention the retirement of Mrs. Crimarco and Mrs. Oliva. I did not want this fact to be a distraction. It is only one of the several factors that have led me to my decision. I did not want this factor to receive disproportionate attention. No one is to be blamed for the ending of the program. I inform the parishioners now simply because there have been misunderstandings and spreading of rumors. I hope this clear truth will end any malice or rancor which have no place in a Catholic Parish.
4. Diocesan Policy
The Education Department of the Diocese has guidelines about Catholic Elementary Schools. Our Preschool is not a Catholic Elementary School. In fact, it is a parish program. Nevertheless, I did use these criteria in helping evaluate the viability of our program (which is not a school).
The Diocese has guidelines to evaluate the health and viability of a school using certain criteria: 1) the number of students enrolled. 2) The percentage who are from the parish. 3) The percentage of Catholics in the Catholic school and 5) finally the parish subsidy. Also considered in this evaluation is the participation of the parents in volunteer work and Sunday contributions to the parish. Although not bound to these directives they were helpful in coming to my decision.
In summary, I have shared with you all these many factors which helped me to arrive at my decision. I could no longer expect the parishioners of St. Paul the Apostle, already sacrificing so much, to provide such a large subsidy to a parish program in which so few of our parishioners participate. My primary concern which is also that of Mrs. Crimarco and Mrs. Oliva and of all the program’s staff, has been and always will be the children. That is why it was essential that this information be communicated in a timely way. We all stand ready to assist the children in finding new programs.
It is my fond hope that this letter has answered your questions about why the preschool is ending. The ancient Romans had an expression: Res ipse loquitur. (The thing speaks for itself). I am sure you will agree that in this case that phrase is most applicable. I made one of the saddest decisions of my life, but it was a decision in which I had no other choice. As pastor, I am solemnly charged to be a responsible steward of our parish resources.
May I encourage everyone to pray for our children and to act with great charity and understanding in these remaining months. It is my fond hope that there will be calm and serenity, and the absence of malice, blame, and rancor. Unless you become as little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
May God bless our children and keep them from all harm of mind, body and soul. May Our Blessed Mother ever keep them in her loving embrace.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F.. Pereda