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February 5, 2013

Newly reconstituted board rescinds decision to close John Paul II Catholic High School

TERRE HAUTE — John Paul II Catholic High School will remain open next year and the goal is to keep it open “for years to come,” according to an announcement from the board of governors.

A “newly reconstituted board” rescinded a decision made last month to close the school for financial reasons.

“We feel it’s vitally important to do this for our children,” said Ron Eldred, school principal. The school has 17 students.

The new board has developed a plan to raise more money and to reduce the cost of operation.  “We’ll do what it takes. We are fully committed to the school,” said Susan Seitz, the new board president. Her son, Nathan, is a senior this year.

Susan Seitz replaces former board president Ryan Cummins, who resigned.

At a meeting last week, three board members stepped down and three new ones began serving, Seitz said. That’s also when the decision was made to remain open.

“We need an option other than what the public school offers. Prayer is important to us. Our religion is important to us,” she said. At John Paul II, the Catholic faith is incorporated into students’ daily lives.

“We can teach the faith, the same way we teach math and history,” Seitz said.

To remain open and to increase operating funds, the school plans to recruit more students, conduct an aggressive campaign to raise funds from donors and increase the number of fundraising activities.

Plans to decrease operational costs include finding additional qualified volunteer faculty members, such as retired teachers and local college professors who teach one or two courses of their specialty at no charge. School officials also hope to reduce building expenses in various ways.  

The announcement last month that the school would close “brought an immediate response from concerned parents, students, and teachers who felt that it was premature, and a concerted effort was made to reorganize the board and initiate a plan to rescind the decision,” according to a news release.

Already, parents have raised enough money to fund operations for the rest of the academic year, as well as a “substantial amount toward operation of next year.”

The school receives no government funding,  and all revenue comes from student fees, a large group of small donors, a small group of large donors and from several fundraisers, school officials say.

Cummins, who announced the initial decision to close Jan. 18, said a group of parents disagreed with that decision and “they took on the responsibility for raising money and taking some other steps necessary to keep the school open.”

Cummins said he stepped down because he did not believe keeping the school open was the best course of action. “I still support the school. I wish them luck and hope they are successful,” he said. “It is a great school.”

Nathan Seitz, a senior at John Paul II, is “almost definitely” going to Purdue University in the fall and hopes to major in engineering.

One of the benefits of John Paul II is its small enrollment, he said. “That allows for a lot of one-on-one time with teachers.”

The school also has “less distractions” than would be the case in a larger school, he said. Seitz started a volunteer group that goes to Ryves Youth Center each week.

Senior Nathaniel Junker, who plans to study biomedical engineering at Rose-Hulman, said that attending John Paul II has given him a better understanding of his Catholic faith.

Also, several teachers have “really wanted to push me to do a lot more than I probably would have” at a larger public school, Junker said.

The school, founded in 2000, is accredited by the Indiana state Board of Education. It is an independent Catholic high school, but sanctioned by the Archdiocese.

Those wanting to support the school, or enroll children, can call  812-235-9108. John Paul II Catholic High School is located in the former Sacred Heart School building at 1330 Lafayette Ave. in Terre Haute.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.



 

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