“Disbelief,” “Heart Wrenching” Parents Describe Saint Augustine Closing

Parents, staff, students and supports of Saint Augustine School reacted strongly to news of the school’s impending closure. St. Peter Parish School in Haverstraw to close also.


At noon on Monday, Saint Augustine School released the news that the Archdiocese of New York earmarked the school for closure in June.  Several hours after getting the information, parents spoke about their disappointment.

“I cried,” said Nikita Kirshian. “I’m still in a state of disbelief.” 

The Nanuet resident was picking up her two daughters who attend pre-kindergarten and first grade at the New City Catholic elementary school. She echoed the feelings of others that the school was like a family.  She said something is being taken away from the kids and their parents by the shutdown. 

“Heart wrenching” was how New City resident Tolani Akinyemiju described it. “We were very optimistic that we would be able to stay open.”

Her daughter Isabelle, who is a member of the school’s final eighth grade class will graduate in June, said she was pretty upset. Akinyemiju who has a son in kindergarten said she had no idea about where he would attend classes in the fall. 

Bethann Rooney, president of the Home School Association, who worked on the plan to keep Saint Augustine open, said, “This is news we can’t simply understand.” 

She said the Archdiocese did not provide an explanation of why the 53-year-old school was selected for closure despite having raised $2.1 million through fundraising, revenue enhancements and budget reductions. An estimated 1000 volunteer hours went into preparing the alternative plan and fundraising.

Rooney was critical of the decision and said, “Not an ounce of transparency (was) in the process.” 

The Pomona resident said the impact of the school’s closing would be felt throughout the county. Its 219 students come from Clarkstown, Nanuet, Ramapo and other communities although the majority, 70 percent live in the East Ramapo School District. The students represent 47 different countries and about 80 percent of them are Catholic while 20 percent are non-Catholic.  Ten fulltime teachers and 10 part-time teachers will lose their jobs.

“I feel we did an outstanding job putting our proposal forwards,” said Principal Katharine Murphy. “We left no stone unturned. We worked very diligently the last seven to eight weeks. It’s just very sad that can’t be open.”

St. Peter Parish School in Haverstraw was also placed on the November 2012 “at risk” of closure list with Saint Augustine School. It too will close in June. The Archdiocese announced that 22 of the 26 “at risk” schools were being closed. The Archdiocese’s statement released late Tuesday afternoon did not include specific details about why the schools were selected.

The statement reviewed the process that took place over the past two months.

“This review included all relevant data, including enrollment, financial, academic and local demographics, to ensure the Board’s and Committee’s decisions would result in financially healthy, sustainable schools. Throughout the review process, pastors and principals of the at-risk schools were invited to meet with members of the local Board or Reconfiguration Committee to discuss the combination of factors that led to the decision to list a school as “at-risk,” and offered an opportunity to submit an alternative proposal to remain viable.”

SASNewCity January 23, 2013 at 12:25 AM
SAS exceeded the three-year financial goal ($1.2 Million) set by the Regional Board by over $855,000 in just six weeks and have a robust plan to raise even more money. We recognize that the Archdiocese says that there are no "failing schools" but the process should have ensured that the best schools were spared. This was a one year "pilot project" but a decision to close two schools was made in the third month of operation.
Defender January 25, 2013 at 01:18 PM
this is terrible. The church put a land sale over a self financed school. The Parishioners should withhold their donations at Sunday services.


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