February 22, 2016
For immediate release
Bishop Accepts Recommendation to Close St. Augustine School
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has accepted the recommendation by parish officials to close St. Augustine School in Lansingburgh at the end of the school year. The Diocesan School Board recently reviewed enrollment and financial data provided by St. Augustine’s pastoral council, parish finance committee, and school board, supporting the difficult decision to close.
Last June, Bishop Scharfenberger challenged the Lansingburgh community to increase enrollment and breathe new life into the neighborhood school. Despite a concerted effort on the part of parents, teachers, school officials, and community supporters, the enrollment stands at 100 students, far below what would be necessary to make the school viable. In 2010-11, enrollment was at 220.
Finances continue to be difficult for the school and the parish. When the school was given a reprieve by the Bishop last year, it faced a $170,000 deficit. Currently, the deficit has grown to $330,000. Despite a $100,000 loan from the Diocesan School Board, the deficit is insurmountable at $230,000.
“While this decision is a sad outcome after the tireless work and dedication from principals, teachers, families, alumni, benefactors, and the larger community over the years, it will only strengthen our resolve and efforts to secure that no parent is denied their constitutional rights to choose a Catholic education for their child,” said Bishop Scharfenberger. “This was not a quick decision but rather the end of long effort to keep the school open. We simply have run out of options. It was a valiant effort on the part of the St. Augustine’s community, and we thank you for that. Your commitment to Catholic education is an inspiration to all of us.”
A letter signed by Father David J. Kelley, OSA, pastor, and Patricia Balmer, principal, was sent to school families on Feb. 8, alerting them to the continuing dire financial situation and the fact that the Diocesan School Board would be reviewing the parish’s recommendation at its February meeting.
“St. Augustine School, along with the parish, has long been a cornerstone of the Lansingburgh community, and it saddens us to have to make this difficult decision. Unfortunately, under the current conditions, it’s simply not possible to keep the school open and continue to provide the academic excellence for which our schools are known,” said Michael Pizzingrillo, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Albany. “I want to thank the families, faculty, and community for doing everything in their power to make this school year possible and the best it could be for the children.”
St. Augustine Parish was first established in 1842, and has been served by Augustinian priests since 1858. The parish school was established in 1869.