As a long time but geographically distant member of the Queen of Peace community I felt compelled to write to all of you regarding my experiences over the past year as so many worked so hard to make our beloved high school a sustainable institution that provided excellent education, quality teaching, and stayed true to its catholic mission.
This is a difficult task in the current educational environment where education costs are escalating, student populations in the northeast are declining, and our geographic “catchment area” where we source students lacks meaningful growth in real family incomes. We understood these challenges as we embarked on our campaign to “Save Queen of Peace” and as so many people rallied behind leaders like Michael Carucci and Randy Pierce to do just that! What a great feat for our community! We should all take inspiration from their leadership, the work of so many, and the result that allowed us to graduate the class of 2017 while continuing to provide quality education to all of our students and jobs for our dedicated teachers and staff. I could not be happier about the investment that we all made in our school and I assure you I would do exactly the same thing I did last year knowing what I know today, no regrets.
The past year gave Fr. Mike Donovan and the administration of the school time to sort out whether we could meet our long term goals. We all hoped that a more experienced team, a more critical look at “the business of education”, and the energy of our community of volunteers would allow us to get back on track to meet that goal of long term sustainability. As we all know today, we fell short on being able to do so.
As a loyal, competitive, and admittedly emotional graduate of QPHS I hate admitting defeat and want to question people to know “What more could we have done?”. Unfortunately, as a businessman who looks at this from a distance I feel at peace that the right decision has been made. Over the course of the year I reached a similar conclusion to the good people at St Anthony’s Jersey City. The school needed two things to be sustainable 1) an annual operating budget that was no more than $100,000 from break even as I believed we could raise annual funds to cover some level of losses and 2) an endowment (or savings account) of at least $7,000,0000 that would allow for investments in scholarship, teacher training and development, facilities upgrades and be a stop gap if we exceeded the loses noted above. My numbers weren’t perfect but I believe that’s in the ballpark IF we wanted not just doors to be open but to have an excellent school that could deliver $10,000 of annual value to our tuition payers and could be sustainable for at least a decade.
I was discouraged as our very qualified team struggled to harness the operating budget and we continued with unsustainable losses —not being able to stem those losses made the second issue—a sizable endowment less and less likely. I applaud Fr. Mike and John Tonero for doing good work, I encourage our community to do the same. I believe the decision was based on a year of learning and some indisputable facts, and was, unfortunately, a responsible path to take.
At Villanova we learned of the teachings of the philosophical Saint Augustine. He was often very ethereal in his lessons but other times he was pragmatic with simple messages. One of his more practical quotes comes to mind here today as we celebrate the history of QPHS and the success of the Class of 2017 but also are saddened that our beloved school will close:
“bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: such as we are, such are the times.”
I often refer myself to this when its time to move forward.
God bless Queen of Peace High School, our alumni, our teachers and staff present and past.
Our school’s history and legacy relies on what we do with our lives going forward. We are the times.
Proud member of QPHS Class of 1980