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Prince of Peace Parents Not Going Quietly

Sayville Catholic School closure surprises many who vow to fight Diocese of Rockville Centre decision.

that in Sayville will close next June has parents upset by the decision and has some vowing to work to save the school while demanding answers from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Officials with the Diocese announced Tuesday that it would close six of its 53 elementary schools on Long Island at the end of the 2011-12 school year due to declining enrollment and other issues.

However, Prince of Peace parents said they will not accept the decision without a fight and plan to hold a peaceful protest at the school on Saturday at 9 a.m., according to Holtsville resident Marguerite Hachem, a parent of two students at the school.

“We need our voices to be heard, this is our second home,” she said. “We won’t go down quietly, but we will rally peacefully.”

Sean P. Dolan, director of communications for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said the Diocese evaluated every single school on the ability of that school to provide and sustain a quality Catholic educational program.

An advisory committee looked at and analyzed enrollment, demographic changes at each school, the age of students in the area, the financial situation of the school and parish and reviewed each school building, its technology and other programs offered, Dolan said.

“Through these lenses the advisory committee determined each school's viability into the future,” Dolan said. “They also asked 'would there be a nearby school for the students?' That’s how they made the recommendation to close the six schools and the strategic collaboration for the others."

Hachem said the announcement came as an absolute shock to parents of Prince of Peace students.

According to parents who gathered at the school for early dismissal Wednesday, the school is financially stable, the building is in good shape, enrollment is up (this year) and the kids are performing well academically.

Lisa Manzo of Oakdale, who has two children enrolled at Prince of Peace, said the reasons the Diocese provided for closing don’t apply to Prince of Peace.

While the school has seen a 24 percent decrease in enrollment over 10 years — 179 students in 2000-01 down to 136 in 2011-12 — parents said Prince of Peace is in better shape all around than the five other schools the Diocese announced will be closed next June.

“We have the technology, we have the enrollment, we have the finances,” Manzo said. “It doesn’t fit.”

Bayport resident Maura Mains said parents were devastated by the announcement. Her son Sean, a sixth-grader, has attended Prince of Peace since kindergarten.

“It’s like waking up to one family and then going to your other family,” Sean Mains said about going to school.

Maura Mains emphasized the negative effects closing Prince of Peace will have on students and parents alike.

“The Diocese needs to know the damage this is doing,” she said. “We need better answers from them.”

Ed Mitchell, a Bayport resident whose son is a third grader at Prince of Peace, recalled that the Diocese attempted to close the school eight years ago. However, parents and officials with the Diocese came to an agreement that would allow the school to remain open and teach through eighth grade, rather than through sixth.

“The agreement was that parents would contribute a sizeable sum to fund part of the operating budget,” Mitchell said. “This was far above and beyond the normal fundraisers."

The group of parents said they would be willing to again consider a similar agreement. Manzo said she wishes the Diocese would've offered the school the opportunity to bring their (enrollment) numbers up.

"This was a nameless, faceless decision," Manzo said. "They're destroying a family."

Hachem added, "We're willing to do whatever we can. We've listened to every challenge they've given us so far."

Amanda Fiscina contributed to this story.

joanna tutrone December 08, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Thank you for taking the time to report our school's tragedy. Out of respect for a truly incredible institution and its' remarkable faculty, I feel compelled to express my opinion. I am so disappointed that our daughter has been robbed of a future at POP. She learned an incredible amount in just 3 months and I am so pleased with the school thus far. I believed that I had chosen the ideal school for our daughter to grow into a young lady. I regret that I wasn't made aware of any "strategic plan" during the open house last year. We were kept in the dark until early October of this school year, just after my daughter had already settled in so nicely in her pre-K class. It is a shame that the students of Prince of Peace will be forced from a wonderful environment & even more unfortunate that the release of their final decision comes just a few weeks before Christmas; tarnishing this season for families and faculty. I have come to know that POP is in a better position than some of the other schools that will remain open. The environment at the school today was that of sadness, disappointment, and just utter defeat. Parents, children, and staff had tears in their eyes. I still have not broken the news to my daughter who keeps talking about her "field trip" to the kindergarten classroom; a classroom she still believes will be hers next year. Thank you for allowing us to voice our disappointment and can only hope that Bishop Murphy will re-evaluate his decision.
Daniela December 08, 2011 at 02:08 AM
Im going to ask mrs harrigan, but I'd like to volunteer my time and bring italian (I'm a school teacher)to the aftercare a couple times a week. Perhaps it would boost enrollment if people knew their kids were getting even more foreign language instruction that isn't available in aftercare at all other catholic schools. They take Spanish already, this could broaden the students' horizons and make POP have something over other schoo
LA December 08, 2011 at 08:42 AM
I would pay to put my children in the aftercare (even though I am a stay at home mom) to have them get the opportunity to learn Italian.
GRACE SHERMAN December 08, 2011 at 01:01 PM
joanna, We had no idea that any of this was coming at open house last spring - not a clue. Unfortunately, the Diocese does do things like this from time to time, and smaller schools usually take the hit - but trust me, we had no idea. The letter that came home on Sept 23rd was the first notice most of us had that the Diocese was looking at each school. Perhaps they should have told us last spring! Please don't lose faith, we will all find our way through this.
Sue Byrnes December 09, 2011 at 12:11 AM
we lost our beautiful Victorian church in "67 from the fire...my daughters were baptized there....my son & grandchildren in the new church , modern looking....my 12 year old grandaughter plays basketball for St.Lawrence we want to keep that up...we go back to the 60's when many of us moved to Sayville from Nassau Cty. try & choose another location...leave our quaint beautiful Sayville the way it is Sue Byrnes


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