The St. Hubert High School community has raised money and presented its case to an appeals committee.
In two weeks, students, staff, alumnae and friends will find out if the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will close the school, as a blue ribbon commission recommended on Jan. 6.
“I guess we just have to wait and see and pray,” said principal Regina Craig.
The commission cited declining enrollment and an operating deficit in recommending that the school, located for 70 years at Torresdale and Cottman avenues, close in June.
Unlike two years ago, when North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty high schools closed, the archdiocese is allowing appeals.
Craig joined Sister Mary E. Smith, the school president, and advisory board member Marie Gallagher at the Jan. 25 appeal hearing at the archdiocese’s Center City office building. They presented their case to a committee of seven, including one person on a conference call.
The committee presented its side for the first 15 minutes. Members cited a $624,480 deficit and a 55-percent drop in enrollment in the last 15 years. Current enrollment is about 625.
St. Hubert was to be given 50 minutes, but the meeting lasted two hours and 15 minutes.
Gallagher, a 1965 St. Hubert graduate, was the lead person on behalf of the school. She was principal of Little Flower in 1992 when the archdiocese called for the school to close. She led a successful effort to reverse that decision.
The women presented the committee with a notarized PNC Bank statement. They disputed the deficit figure, contending it is under $500,000. And they pointed to the school’s art studio and various educational laboratories.
Craig, wearing a “Once a Bambie, Always a Bambie” button, said the meeting also included an “intense” question-and-answer period.
“We’re very confident,” she said. “We absolutely hit all of our points. Marie Gallagher made an outstanding presentation.”
The Rev. Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, is expected to rule on all high school and elementary school appeals on Feb. 15.
Craig thanked everyone for their financial support, adding that students handed her checks from parents as she walked through the cafeteria. The money raised will help erase the deficit, provide tuition assistance and establish an endowment.
The principal believes the students’ spirits led to a powerful appeal. She thinks the advisory board has enough fiscally savvy members to spend the money wisely. Student recruitment will be stepped up. And she argues that St. Hubert takes a back seat to no one when it comes to academics.
“We’re a twenty-first century school,” she said. “We have a strong academic program.”
That’s why Craig said she was “totally and completely shocked” when the commission recommended that the school close.
Several student rallies have taken place on the front steps of the school, including one on Jan. 26, the morning after the appeal.
Students sung the alma mater and chanted, “I believe that we will stay,” as motorists driving by on Torresdale Avenue honked their horns in support. One sign read, “We have high hopes.”
The girls were joined by City Councilman Dennis O’Brien, advisory board chairman Charlie Dougherty, alumnae association president Louise Winski and the Bambie mascot.
The fund-raising continues. There were sweatshirt sales, and people took home lawn signs that read, “Keep the Tradition Alive!” and included the Web site address savehuberts.com for donations.
Kathryn Ott Lovell, a 1992 St. Hubert graduate and an advisory board member, said donations ranged from children’s piggy banks to a six-figure pledge.
Leading up to the appeal hearing, more than 6,000 people made cash gifts totaling $722,000-plus.
“This tremendous fund-raising wipes out any deficit,” Lovell said.
The amount collected is pretty good considering St. Hubert isn’t located in a posh suburb or isn’t co-educational.
“We are a school of hard-working, rowhome families,” Lovell said.
So far, 162 eighth-graders have committed to enter St. Hubert in September, a figure double the pace of last year.
Lovell said that, if the school receives good news in two weeks, it will host an open house and registration evening for the class of 2016.
St. Hubert is pinning its hopes on Gallagher, who fought for Little Flowers two decades ago.
“She saved that school, and we believe and we hope that, yesterday, she saved ours,” Lovell said. ••
Free sessions for teachers
Holy Family University will hold free information sessions on Feb. 3 and 17 for archdiocesan teachers facing career transition or displacement because of the blue ribbon commission’s findings.
Officials from the university’s School of Education will discuss teaching credentials and certification programs,
The sessions will run from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the Education and Technology Center, at 9801 Frankford Ave. ••EndFragment EndFragment