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…
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.EndFragment EndFragment