Deacon DuBois said that name change is the first of several changes to take place over the next 18 months to attain “the absolutely best educational experience for our students in an environment that provides the tools they need to succeed …”
Additionally, by Feb. 1, the closure of at least one of the four elementary school campuses will be announced by the system’s corporate board. And, starting in the 2014-2015 school year, the middle school campus will have grades 5 to 8, while the elementary campuses will have pre-K through grade 4.
Financial sustainability has been an issue for several years for the Appleton system; in 2009, the closure of Catholic Central School was averted by a grass roots fund-raising effort. At that time, the overall system of six campuses was “in the black” financially.
That is no longer the case.
“Can we continue two, three, four years? Absolutely not,” said Deacon DuBois, adding that “we can tread water for about a year.”
Enrollment too low
Deacon Tony Abts, ACES Xavier superintendent and principal of St. Joseph Middle School, noted that the system’s enrollment is 380 students short of what would be needed to sustain the current six campus model. While enrollment has declined overall, Deacon DuBois noted that Xavier High School has enjoyed an enrollment spike.
Currently ACES Xavier owns only two of the buildings used by the school system: St. Joseph Middle School and Xavier High School. The other four campuses are owned by the parishes and receive budget funding through all eight Appleton parishes and several regional parishes as well. For the next school year — 2013-2014 — all six campuses will remain structured as they are, allowing students, staff and parents to make a smooth transition.
That transition will include finding ways to utilize the buildings that will no longer house classrooms. “In no way,” said Deacon DuBois, “are we going to leave these parishes out in the cold.”
Parents at the Dec. 10 meeting voiced concern about changes in mascots and school logos — a cost which the board determined must be funded by private donations only — as well as school names on diplomas for this coming year. The plan, according to Deacon DuBois, is to use uniforms and other materials until they are depleted or “worn out.”
Teaching positions will be filled by attrition and teacher quality, according to Deacon Abts, who added that one central administration will oversee the elementary schools instead of the current system of one principal at each elementary site.
As to which school buildings will be utilized in the future, a committee is currently touring the various campuses and rating them according to certain criteria that include worship space, accessibility, room to expand, gym facilities, maintenance costs and traffic patterns around the school grounds.
By Feb. 1
Within the next six weeks, the committee will make its recommendations to the corporate board. That board — consisting of the eight Appleton pastors, Bishop David Ricken, Deacon Tim Reilly, general director of the diocesan curia and Dr. Joseph Bound, diocesan director of education — will make a final decision by Feb. 1.
Deacon DuBois assured parents that the goal is to make St. Francis Xavier the best Catholic school system in the area, if not in the state, and that these changes are taking a long-term view.
“The kids we need to plan for haven’t been born yet,” he said. “We’re in this for the long haul.
People also wanted to know why the “St. Francis Xavier” was chosen. While Xavier High School was named for this saint when it was founded in 1959, the name actually belongs to the patron saint of the Diocese of Green Bay. This 16th century missionary saint was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).
“St. Francis Xavier provides a true model for our students to take up the mantle of evangelizer and missionary, a fact sheet distributed at the Dec. 10 meeting explained.