St. Patrick's School challenged, but not conquered, by finances

The school will not be closing, the principal said.
HUBBARD -- St. Patrick's School here has been educating area children for more than 13 decades, and despite some financial hardships school officials say it's not going anywhere.
The school first opened its doors in 1870 and has since educated generations of pupils from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade. The Water Street school employs 11 full-time teachers and two part-time teachers.
Principal Rita Gontaruk said St. Patrick's School is no different from any other educational facility in that money is a concern. She said some people have asked if the school is closing because of financial hardships.
Dealing with economy
"Yes, finances are tough, but they are tough everywhere, and we are very viable," she said. "I don't want people to think we are closing, because we absolutely are not."
Gontaruk said the economy of the area is "very tight," and when that happens contributions to the church go down because many people pay other bills before giving to the church. Diminished church donations, she said, become evident with less money to operate the schools.
Gontaruk said another explanation for the school's financial issues is a drop in enrollment for the coming school year. The school, she said, had 200 pupils last year and about 170 this year. The drop, she said, is due mainly to a large graduating kindergarten class.
Gontaruk, however, said the employees at the school have taken steps to help keep the educational facility afloat. Teachers at the school had taken a pay freeze during the 2004-05 school year. They earn between $19,000 and $30,000 annually, Gontaruk said.
"Our teachers wages here are disgracefully low. As in any private school, it is hard to offer fair wages," she said.
Superintendent's view
Superintendent Dr. Michael Skube said it is not uncommon for smaller parish-supported schools to face more financial difficulties than the larger Catholic high schools.
All Catholic schools, Skube said, collect tuition, do fund raising and receive money from the church. High schools, however, are supported by a group of parishes and have a larger student body from which to draw tuition.
The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown operates 47 schools in six counties. There are about 10,000 pupils enrolled in the schools and about 1,000 teachers, Skube said.
Both Skube and Gontaruk agree that solving the enrollment and financial issues of St. Patrick's School and other Catholic schools can be done by making the community aware of their importance. They say Catholic schools offer educational and spiritual benefits that cannot be found elsewhere.
"You have to look at what we have to offer. In our academics, on any measure, our students do well. Secondly, we really offer an excellent spiritual and moral base in our schools," Skube said. "We have to make parents aware that this is what we do, and we do it well. We are working on making parents understand that."

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