St. Patrick School to close in June

(March 20, 2015) – After more than 150 years of educating generations of children, St. Patrick School in Owego will close its doors in June 2015 at the end of the school year.

The recommendation to close the school, presented by St. Patrick parish and school leaders, was accepted by The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano, Bishop of Rochester, after consultation with, among others, the Diocesan School Board and the Presbyteral Council, a council of priests from throughout the 12-county diocese who advise the Bishop.

The recommendation from parish and school leadership was due to a steady decline in enrollment in recent years, projections of further enrollment decline, and the mounting financial pressures on the parish, which subsidizes the school’s operation. The school’s enrollment is currently at 58 (K-6).

“I am both very grateful and deeply impressed by the extraordinary efforts of both the parish and school communities which contributed to the school’s 150 year history of Catholic education,” Bishop Matano said in a letter to school parents. “Unfortunately a pattern of declining enrollment, coupled with increased costs and serious, mounting and unsustainable financial strains upon the parish, has necessitated this decision.”

“Perhaps the sadness of Saint Patrick’s School closing can become a positive occasion for our other Catholic schools to seek ways to make known what our Catholic schools offer and for alumnae and alumni of Catholic schools to lend their renewed support for the educational system that guided their paths in life,” he said.

“The situation also brings to mind the importance of passage of the State Education Investment Tax Credit proposal that would help families afford tuition at Catholic and other private schools by generating an additional $150 million in scholarships.”

Paula Smith, principal, said, “I have been blessed to be part of the St. Patrick School family for nine years and the closure of the school will be like losing a family member; with the same sadness and pain.  Right now I need to concentrate on the families, students and staff, helping families find a school that meets their child’s needs and supporting staff in any way. After all have had a time to grieve, I hope we can celebrate the wonderful things St. Patrick School has meant to so many over the last 156 years.

The doors may close but St. Patrick School will always be in my heart,” Principal Smith said, “and in the hearts of all the many generations who have passed through its doors.”

Reverend Thomas J. Valenti, parochial administrator of Blessed Trinity Parish-St. Patrick Parish, said he is most grateful to Paula Smith and all the teachers and staff for their leadership and dedication. “The school and church community here is close-knit and strong,” Father Valenti said. “With the help of God and by upholding each other, we will pray and work together as a community to ease the sadness at the closing, confident in the knowledge that we kept the school in operation as long as we could.”

Anthony Cook, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said: “I share feelings of deep sadness with the community of St. Patrick School. After tireless review, consultation, prayer, and heroic efforts to raise the necessary funds to carry on, this is a very difficult time for everyone involved with the school. While the efforts to continue St. Patrick School ultimately did not succeed, the students, families, and staff are strong representatives of the school. I am so proud and grateful to know such caring and faith-filled people.”

Letter to the St. Patrick’s Community from Bishop Salvatore R. Matano