The Road Ahead and The New St. Bede School The Archdiocese has a new Archbishop and he will soon install a new Catholic School Superintendent. And as with all new administrations, they have an opportunity to review systems, operations and policies and make the changes which are needed.
The most significant change for St. Bede School involves notice that the Archdiocese will not be able to subsidize our operations beyond next year. It’s our understanding that similar notice was received by other Catholic elementary schools in the two-county area. We’re grateful to the Archdiocesan Administration for the financial help we’ve had in the past, which sometimes reached into the six figures.
On May 26, Fr. Merold, Fr. Shawn, our new pastor, parish and school administrators, members of the Board of Specified Jurisdiction, Parish Pastoral Council, Finance Council and other parish groups met with representatives of the Archdiocese to discuss the operations of our school and the school subsidy from the archdiocese.
Using the new limits and timeframe set at that meeting, we will develop a plan to gradually increase our enrollment and modify current operations to generate cost savings. For the next five years, for example, the archdiocese will discuss our request to suspend interest on our loans, which takes some of the pressure off the bottom line while we plan for the future.
As has been the St. Bede Church Community tradition in the past, the parish has provided much more than just school sponsorship. The parish support, besides providing the new school building, includes financing much of the tuition assistance program as well as being our first backstop for operating shortfalls.
We’ve seen the population in our area shrinking in recent years, so much so that public schools near us have been laying off teachers. The overall public school enrollment in Lake County has dropped for five years. Our own enrollment has trended down since the housing recession began in 2007. On the positive side, the economy shows signs of improving, new homes are being built in this area, and the five-year projection for population in our area shows a slight increase. But we can’t count on a substantial increase in enrollment in the near future.
Private, Catholic Education is valuable to the parish experience and for our families. For that reason it is our intention to continue offering that education at St. Bede. But the structure of the institution will change to match the new normal, a smaller student body.
This year we have fewer than fifteen students in two grades and fewer than twenty in two others. To be solvent, we need more than twenty per classroom. In order to accomplish that, we will combine classes where possible. Some parents and others are rightly concerned about a teacher managing two grade levels. I’ll point out here that it isn’t unusual for teachers in all classes to have a range of student ability – some including three or four levels of achievement in a room. While combining classes is a challenge, it’s not really a new challenge.
Other schools who respond to changes like this create an animated drive to raise the alarm, place blame, raise money, etc. At St. Bede we will continue to raise funds, market our school, reach out to new families and especially cultivate a quality experiences for all our students. But our strategy going forward will be to reduce expenses to match the enrollment.
In the end, a decision about a school isn’t a parish decision. It is a family decision. Families who want a Catholic Elementary School at St. Bede will find us to be a willing and supportive partner.
Charles Pinto, Principal
ST. BEDE CATHOLIC SCHOOL BELIEVE, ACHIEVE, SUCCEED! 36399 N. WILSON RD., INGLESIDE, IL 60041 PH: 847-587-5541, FX: 847-587-2713