Sunday, June 8, 2008

DuKette Catholic School closing

The 2007 pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and eighth-grade graduates of DuKette Catholic School.

The Flint Journal is reporting that DuKette Catholic School, formerly known as Donovan North and St. Agnes, will close. It's another lost resource for kids in a troubled neighborhood.

Beata Mostafavi writes:

For nearly 30 years, it was the tight-knit Roman-Catholic school where children prayed before lunch and were taught family values and respect alongside math and English.

But teachers at DuKette Catholic School were told Friday that the tiny faith-based school will close before fall, according to Nadine Roberts -- whose grandchildren attend DuKette and who is on the school's board of directors.

"As of Thursday, all parents and grandparents thought that we were going next year. They didn't tell parents at all," said Roberts, who said several staff members called her with the news.

"People in the community are going to be very sad."

Roberts said that staff members told her that a representative from the Diocese of Lansing visited the school Friday for an emergency meeting and read a letter announcing closure.

Neither Principal Gail Negrinelli nor anyone at the Diocese of Lansing could be reached today to confirm the school's closing.

Dropping enrollment has been one of the biggest problems for the pre-K-8 school, where numbers dropped from roughly 186 students in 2000 to about 65 in 2006.

Located at 530 W. Pierson Road on the St. Agnes Church campus, the school has also suffered from burglaries and been the target of other crimes over the years.

"We knew that they were looking at schools and looking at the numbers and that something would be done eventually because the numbers were low," Roberts said. "That was understandable. What was not understandable was the way it happened.

"There was no transition and that's not fair. These kids got to go somewhere."

Roberts said parents and grandparents such as herself send their children to DuKette because of the small classes, good teachers and strong emphasis on God and values.

"People made a conscious choice to put their kids in a structured environment that they felt like was beneficial to their children's education and growth," she said.

Roberts said teachers at the school, which has operated with a roughly dozen-member staff, were told they would receive some kind of severance package.

But she noted that the short notice will make it hard for staff to find new jobs and force parents to scramble for school records and enroll children in another school.

DuKette has a long history in the area, named after Flint's first black priest the Rev. Norman A. DuKette when it opened in 1980. It was formerly known as St. Agnes Catholic Grammar School and High School until the 1970s when area Catholic schools were consolidated and it was renamed Donovan North School.

For at least a couple of years, the community school, which costs about $3,100 per child a year, has fought closure rumors. But officials have vowed to keep it put.

"We've got a staff here that loves these kids and loves working together," Negrinelli said in an interview in 2006 in regards to threats of closing. "When you've got people working together on the same page and have the same goals, educating children, you can accomplish a lot."

DuKette student Jonathan Sargent works on his science fair project.


  1. This is very, very sad, not to mention infuriating: why were the teachers, students and the families concerned only just NOW informed that they would not be returning? Budget or no budget, to leave these families hanging like that in the eleventh hour is simply unexcusable.Did anyone consider the transition issue for the kids, and the impact that such an abrupt change could potentially have on them and their families? It would have been far better from a psychological and emotional standpoint to prepare these children and their families for this DURING the schoolyear so they could prepare for and process the change together as a group. I'm sure there was a fight to the end to keep the place open, but to keep the most important people in the school - the kids and their families - in the dark until the last minute was simply not right.

    Are there any readers out there who attended Maurice Olk Primary and Donovan North Middle School in the 1970's? I started first grade in 1971 and left after finishing eighth grade in 1979, moving on to Powers Catholic for high school. I have very fond memories of all those years at that school and of the kids, the teachers, the principals, the games, the church and the grounds, the secretaries, and the lunch and the milk ladies - who could forget Mrs. Bontumasi! When I started a carton of white milk was 4 cents and chocolate 5 cents...

  2. Redgirl is right, it seems the Bishop's plan had little concern for the kids.
    Granted, the school's population is far too small, like St. Mary's SC was a year earlier, to keep open.
    I went to St. Roberts in Flushing, but played against DuKette and later became friends with those kids at Powers. I feel bad for those families that have struggled for years to keep the school open.


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