Northeast Times

For the Bambies, it’s hope and pray

St. Hubert High School has form­ally ap­pealed its ordered shut­down in June. Now it’s up to the arch­diocese to de­cide if a re­prieve for the in­sti­tu­tion is war­ran­ted.

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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. ••

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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. ••

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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