Students, alumnae, friends and other supporters of St. Hubert High School spent the last 12 days raising money any way they could in an effort to save the school from closing.
Meanwhile, the three-person team scheduled to make a presentation to an Archdiocese of Philadelphia committee has been developing talking points to sway the panel and the Rev. Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia.
The appeal hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 25, the day after the Times went to press this week. Expected to represent St. Hubert were Sister Mary E. Smith, the school president; Regina Craig, the principal; and Marie Gallagher, an advisory board member.
Board chairman Charlie Dougherty, a former congressman, yielded to Gallagher, who was principal of Little Flower High School in 1992 when the archdiocese announced plans to close the school. Gallagher helped lead the successful effort to keep the school open.
In their efforts to save St. Hubert, the three women were expected to present a PNC Bank statement showing that school supporters raised about $700,000. They’ll have 50 minutes to make their case.
A blue-ribbon commission recommended on Jan. 6 that the school, located for 70 years at Torresdale and Cottman avenues, close because of declining enrollment and a $624,480 deficit in the last five years. A week later, the advisory board held a news conference on the school steps to formally announce an appeal.
Since then, there have been countless fund-raisers. School supporters had no other choice.
That’s because the archdiocese committee will point to enrollment being half of what it was 12 years ago. The 55-percent dip in enrollment in the last 15 years is the largest of any archdiocesan high school.
Capacity of the building is at less than 40 percent. Enrollment is expected to drop from 675 to 500 by 2014-15, based on the lower number of students in feeder elementary schools.
The alumnae association and the advisory board set an initial goal of raising $1.2 million. The school announced that the archdiocese set that total as a prerequisite to hold an appeal hearing. The archdiocese said appeals would be heard from any school that asked, and that no amount of money had to be presented at the hearing.
Nonetheless, the school wanted to raise as much money as possible to eliminate the deficit and provide tuition assistance.
More than $21,000 was raised on Jan. 19 during a vendor night in the school cafeteria.
Guests bought school T-shirts, ribbons, charms and bows, along with hoagies from Marinucci’s Deli and pound cakes from Stock’s Bakery. A student donated her birthday money, and a couple of youngsters emptied their Ziploc bags containing their life savings.
Last weekend, there were benefits and alumnae celebrity bartending events at local bars such as McNoodle’s Irish Pub, Paddy Whacks Irish Sports Pub, Casper’s Place, Hammerheads, Curran’s Irish Inn, Reale’s Sports Bar and Grille, and SmokeEaters Pub.
“It’s been a colossal effort,” said Louise Winski, a 1968 graduate and president of the alumnae association. “All the businesses and people have been fantastic. There’s no way that we can’t win this.”
Winski donated $10,000 at the outset of the campaign, and a few people have matched that. At the SmokeEaters event last Friday, Jim and Susan (Muller) Anderson, who operate James J. Anderson Construction Inc. in Tacony, donated $20,000. Susan Anderson was a classmate of Winski’s.
State Rep. John Taylor recruited others to the fund-raiser. He has seen his two alma maters, St. Hugh of Cluny and North Catholic, close in recent years. His wife Evelyn is a 1974 St. Hubert graduate.
In all, about $27,000 was raised. Others in attendance included former state House Speaker John Perzel, Teamsters Local 830 leader Dan Grace and St. Matthew seventh-grader Megan Vogler, who has been rallying classmates to pledge to attend St. Hubert at an online site, savehuberts.com.
In addition, money was raised through sales of “Once a Bambie, Always a Bambie!” sweatshirts, an idea of senior Marissa Bologna. She expects to donate $5,000 to the alumnae association.
On Monday morning, students held a “March for the Life of St. Hubert” around the perimeter of the campus. Other students boarded buses to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life in protest of the 39th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
St. Hubert is one of five schools recommended for closing.
All-boys Monsignor Bonner and all-girls Archbishop Prendergast, located adjacent to each other in Drexel Hill, Delaware County, are appealing in hopes of being merged. Conwell-Egan, a co-ed school in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, is also making a longshot appeal. West Catholic is not appealing.
Chaput will make the final decision by mid-February, and St. Hubert hopes it will be able to celebrate the traditional 100-day countdown to graduation, rather than a 100-day countdown to closing.
“Keep all your fingers crossed and your hands in prayer,” Winski said. ••EndFragment