Northeast Times

An appeal for faith

The girls at St. Hubert High School and their sup­port­ers aren’t about to let their be­loved school close down without a fight. They’re rais­ing funds as they ap­peal to the arch­diocese.

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Kath­ryn Ott Lov­ell, a mem­ber of the St. Hubert High School ad­vis­ory board, had good news for the stu­dents, teach­ers, alumni, par­ents and oth­ers who gathered out­side the school early Fri­day morn­ing.

St. Hubert would ap­peal the Jan. 6 de­cision to close the school. An Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia blue rib­bon com­mis­sion made the re­com­mend­a­tion, based on dwind­ling en­roll­ment and a big de­fi­cit.

Lov­ell ex­plained to the large crowd that the ap­peal hear­ing was sched­uled for Jan. 25, and that the arch­diocese had one pre­requis­ite — the St. Hubert com­munity would have to raise $1.2 mil­lion by that date, or the hear­ing would be can­celed. The money must be in hand. No pledges would be re­cog­nized.

“We have a Her­culean task fa­cing us,” Lov­ell said. “This is the fight of our lives.”

By mid­after­noon, the arch­diocese is­sued a state­ment that read, in part, “Ru­mors began cir­cu­lat­ing this morn­ing that schools re­quest­ing a re­view of the Blue Rib­bon Com­mis­sion’s re­com­mend­a­tions would need to raise money in or­der to ob­tain a meet­ing. That is not the case at all.”

In­stead, the arch­diocese said that high school pres­id­ents can re­quest a meet­ing simply by con­tact­ing the Of­fice of Cath­ol­ic Edu­ca­tion. The state­ment ad­ded, “Mak­ing that re­quest is the only ac­tion needed to take part in the ap­peal pro­cess.”

The St. Hubert ad­vis­ory board and alum­nae as­so­ci­ation is­sued a late-af­ter­noon state­ment that read, in part, “Our sup­port­ers, friends and fam­ily will con­tin­ue their gen­er­ous giv­ing and so­li­cit­a­tion ef­forts with the ul­ti­mate goal of sig­ni­fic­antly bol­ster­ing our like­li­hood of suc­cess on Janu­ary 25 at the ap­peal hear­ing.”

The ad­vis­ory board and alum­nae as­so­ci­ation will main­tain the $1.2 mil­lion goal. The money would, among oth­er things, elim­in­ate the de­fi­cit and provide tu­ition as­sist­ance.

“We’re still keep­ing our fund-rais­ing ef­fort,” said Lov­ell, a 1992 St. Hubert gradu­ate and the school’s former dir­ect­or of in­sti­tu­tion­al ad­vance­ment.

As the Times went to press, the school had raised $230,000. If the ap­peal is not suc­cess­ful, the money will be re­turned.

Con­well-Egan, in Fair­less Hills, Bucks County, is also ap­peal­ing its clos­ing.

West Cath­ol­ic will not ap­peal, as the ex­odus of Cath­ol­ics in its long­time base of South­w­est Phil­adelphia would make it im­possible to in­crease en­roll­ment.

Monsignor Bon­ner and Arch­bish­op Pren­der­gast, loc­ated next to each oth­er in Drexel Hill, Delaware County, have not de­cided wheth­er to ap­peal. They were stunned by the com­mis­sion’s re­com­mend­a­tion, as they ex­pec­ted to merge all-boys Bon­ner with all-girls Pren­der­gast.

The dead­line to ap­peal is Feb. 1. Fi­nal de­cisions by the Rev. Charles J. Chaput, arch­bish­op of Phil­adelphia, will be made by mid-Feb­ru­ary.

Ap­peals will be heard by a com­mit­tee of com­mis­sion mem­bers and arch­dioces­an ad­min­is­trat­ors.

Ex­pec­ted to rep­res­ent St. Hubert will be Sis­ter Mary E. Smith, the school pres­id­ent; prin­cip­al Re­gina Craig; and ad­vis­ory board chair­man Charlie Dougherty, a former con­gress­man.

At the meet­ing, the re­view com­mit­tee will present the facts con­sidered by the com­mis­sion in mak­ing its re­com­mend­a­tion. The St. Hubert three­some will of­fer their reas­ons the school should stay open, with sup­port­ing facts and doc­u­ment­a­tion.

The com­mis­sion cited sev­er­al factors in re­com­mend­ing the clos­ing of St. Hubert, which cel­eb­rated its 70th an­niversary in Novem­ber.

The school, at Tor­res­dale and Cottman av­en­ues, had 1,300 stu­dents dur­ing the 1999-2000 aca­dem­ic year. At present, there are 675 girls en­rolled, for a ca­pa­city of just 39.7 per­cent.

The 55-per­cent de­cline in en­roll­ment in the last 15 years is the largest of any arch­dioces­an school.

The pro­jec­ted en­roll­ment is slightly more than 500 for the 2014-15 aca­dem­ic year, based on few­er stu­dents in the ele­ment­ary schools feed­ing in­to St. Hubert.

The school’s total de­fi­cit from 2006-07 to 2010-11 is $624,480.

The ad­vis­ory board met on Jan. 10 and un­an­im­ously voted to ap­peal.

Fri­day’s rally in­cluded songs and cheers from the stu­dents. They held signs that read, “Hubert’s is too le­git to quit” and “Bam­bies do not give up.”

State Rep. John Taylor and City Coun­cil­men Den­nis O’Bri­en and Bobby Hen­on were in at­tend­ance.

Lov­ell an­nounced that the fam­ily of Mary Kil­lion (Class of 1949) had donated $100,000 in her memory.

Louise Win­ski (Class of 1968), pres­id­ent of the alum­nae as­so­ci­ation, donated $10,000. Oth­ers reached in­to their pock­ets, wal­lets and purses to con­trib­ute.

“We will not back down from this chal­lenge. We suc­cess­fully cel­eb­rated sev­enty years of form­ing wo­men of faith and in­teg­rity,” Win­ski said. “We know that we can and we will rise to this chal­lenge. We can and we will fight to keep our be­loved school from clos­ing.”

Lov­ell spoke of the school’s pos­it­ives: more than 30,000 alums; nine ad­vanced-place­ment courses; 14 varsity sports; a fac­ulty in which more than 75 per­cent hold a mas­ter’s de­gree; a 98-per­cent stu­dent at­tend­ance rate.

She de­scribed St. Hubert as an an­chor, a safe haven, a treas­ure and a neigh­bor­hood land­mark.

“It’s not a dy­ing school,” she said.

Lov­ell asked for gen­er­os­ity from busi­ness own­ers, civic lead­ers, alums and sup­port­ers of Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion.

“Join us in this fund-rais­ing ef­fort,” she said.

Seni­or Erin Ad­els­ber­ger, vice pres­id­ent of Bam­bie Am­bas­sad­ors, is part of a rich fam­ily his­tory at St. Hubert. Among her re­l­at­ives who went there was her late grand­moth­er Myrtle Ad­els­ber­ger, a 1942 gradu­ate.

“I want to do all I can so oth­er girls ex­per­i­ence this school. This is my home. I want my chil­dren to go here,” she said. “We’re gonna do it. I have ab­so­lute con­fid­ence. We’re a huge com­munity.”

Alicia Quigley, a 2011 gradu­ate now at­tend­ing Holy Fam­ily, lives near Arch­bish­op Ry­an but made the trek to Tor­res­dale and Cottman and didn’t re­gret the de­cision.

“I loved it here. It’s a big home for every­body,” she said.

As for the ef­fort to keep the doors open?

“It would be a mir­acle, but it can def­in­itely hap­pen,” she said.

Hen­on, who joined Coun­cil earli­er this month, be­lieves St. Hubert is healthy enough to sur­vive. He’d hate to see un­der­class­men forced to pick a new school.

“It’s not about dol­lars and cents,” he said. “It’s about fu­tures, about people.”

Tom For­kin, an ad­vis­ory board mem­ber, said the keys to keep­ing the school open will be to show com­mit­tee mem­bers that en­roll­ment and fin­ances can re­main stable.

“We’ve got to show them that we’re a hun­dred and ten per­cent be­hind keep­ing the school open,” he said. “It’s got to be a year-round ef­fort re­cruit­ing stu­dents and fund-rais­ing.”

An­oth­er ad­vis­ory board mem­ber, Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­id­ent Al Tauben­ber­ger, said thriv­ing schools are good for loc­al and re­gion­al eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment.

“Clos­ing St. Hubert’s would be a ma­jor set­back for North­east Phil­adelphia,” he said. ••

How to help…

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Dona­tions can be made pay­able to St. Hubert Alum­nae As­so­ci­ation and sent to Save St. Hubert, P.O. Box 22104, Phil­adelphia, PA 19136. They can also be made with Visa, Mas­ter­Card, Dis­cov­er and Amer­ic­an Ex­press through the PayP­al link at www.save­huberts.com

While St. Hubert is not per­mit­ted to par­ti­cip­ate in the arch­diocese’s eighth-grade vis­it­a­tion on Jan. 19, the Web site al­lows par­ents of eighth-grade girls to in­dic­ate that they want their chil­dren to be part of the St. Hubert class of 2016.

The site also en­ables stu­dents, alumni, par­ents, fac­ulty and friends of the school to share their stor­ies.

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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