Saint Augustine Plans Financial Independence

Rally to keep Catholic elementary school open draws hundreds of supporters


The announcement that Saint Augustine School would be financially independent in the future drew loud applause at the Thursday night rally supporting the school’s effort to stay open.  The school, which had been placed on the list of Catholic elementary schools “at risk” of closure in June, presented its alternative plan Thursday morning to the Archdiocese of New York.

“Our plan demonstrates number one that we meet or exceed absolutely every one of the goals that the Archdiocese has set for its schools,” said Bethann Rooney, who spearheaded the school’s response. “Number two, the plan shows that we balance our budget without the need for a single dollar from Saint Augustine’s or the Archdiocese of New York.” 

Rooney told the hundreds of students, parents, staff, alumni government officials and community members that as of 6 p.m. Thursday, the school had raised $800,000 in donations and pledges.  She noted the fundraising took place within a period of less than five weeks. A foundation was established to accept the money.

Rooney said the plan submitted to the Archdiocese by Saint Augustine’s Pastor William Cosgrove at 7:38 a.m. specified the school would use $90,000 of the funds raised in the first year and $30,000 in the second year for operating expenses. By the third year, the school would be financially independent and will not require any of the foundation funds, which would be used for scholarships, tuition assistance and technology upgrades. She emphasized the budget will be balanced without reduction in staff or programs. 

Other aspects of the plan include sharing the costs of maintaining the buildings and grounds with the parish. Currently, the school has assumed full responsibility.

“We’re going to share the costs of running the buildings and grounds with all of the users of the space,” said Rooney. “That makes a significant impact on our expense budget.”

Tuition will increase and there will be two tuition plans for parish and non-parish members.  An extracurricular fee will be implemented along with a charge for pre-kindergarten class.

During the rally, one alumnus described Saint Augustine School as “the Gold Standard of Catholic Education in Rockland County.” Father Cosgrove said for the next week each class would be praying for two members of the Archdiocese’s Regional Local Board to have open minds to the plans submitted by Saint Augustine and St. Peter’s Parish School in Haverstraw. 

Katharine Murphy, the school’s principal for 12 years, said the school, parish and community demonstrated they were up to the challenge of helping Saint Augustine remain open. She told the audience she was proud of how the whole community stepped up to assist the school. Murphy thanked county Legislator Ed Day , Clarkstown Councilmen Frank Borelli and George Hoehmann, State Senator David Carlucci and Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacorte, whose community also has a Catholic elementary school, for attending the rally.

Day said he said Saint Augustine is the heart the community and he sent a letter to the Archdiocese asking for the school to be kept open.

“The words Faith, Family and Future really mean a lot here,” said Day.

Before and after a video presentation about the school, students sang. 

School representatives will present the plan in person to the Regional Local Board on Wednesday, Jan. 9.


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