Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holy Redeemer and Holy Rosary Schools to Close...Powers Finds a New Home?

Holy Redeemer School and, possibly, the future Powers Catholic High School? (Photo by Stuart Bauer/The Flint Journal)

Holy Redeemer and Holy Rosary Catholic schools will both close at the end of the academic year.

Linda Angelo of The Flint Journal reports:

Dwindling enrollment and finances, demographic shifts and the overall economy in the Flint area has had a devastating impact on Catholic schools.

"We certainly wished we could keep it open," Holy Redeemer Deacon Rod Amon said. "It's always a sad day when things have to be closed for any reason. Teachers are displaced and people have to find a new place to send their kids for their education. It can be very traumatic."

The fate of Powers High may be related to this story. Flint Expats has already discussed Powers' fundraising difficulties that contributed to the school's decision to scuttle plans to relocate to Grand Blanc. Now a source with some insider knowledge on the Diocese of Lansing tells me rumors are swirling that Powers will abandon its location on Carpenter Road and move into Holy Redeemer. It would liberate Powers from the north end and move them south, which is more prosperous. And Powers already plays their home football games at Redeemer, so it's a familiar spot. Again, this is just an unconfirmed rumor, but it doesn't seem far fetched.

UPDATE: Amy , Powers Class of 1994, writes:

I just got the Powers newsletter in email yesterday which contains a letter from Tom Furnas that they are in negotiations to sell the Carpenter Rd spot (who wants to buy that??) and that there are rumors that some things will be compromised at the possible new locations. He addresses those rumors and the only thing I can think of is that Holy Redeemer doesn't have tennis courts? And I don't remember them having a huge/fabulous basketball court. My only memory of it though was going to Holy Redeemer dances so it was dark! :)

Here is his letter:

Dear Powers Catholic Parent;

I last wrote to you two months ago to share what I could about our efforts to bring about the relocation of our school. In that letter I mentioned that we had received a written off er for our property and were pursuing specific options for a new location.

We have now entered a period of concrete negotiations with the potential buyer to ensure that we receive a fair value for our property and to guarantee that the sale would go through in a time frame that would allow us a proper transition to our new home. There are, of course, a number of details to be worked out and we won’t consider the deal done until the legal agreements are signed. We are represented by real estate attorneys selected by the Diocese of Lansing.

While we are still looking at the possibilities surrounding three specific options, we have given ourselves a deadline and will present a proposal to Bishop Boyea this winter. Our bishop is engaged in this process and is supportive of our efforts. Again, we will share with you our plans at the earliest possible time.

Among the rumors floating around, perhaps the most disconcerting is that a relocated Powers Catholic will have to give up many of its programs. One of Powers’ great strengths is our commitment to both academic and extracurricular programs that serve students of varying abilities and interests. A staggering percent of our student body is involved in our extracurricular program. This richness, along with a dedicated and professional staff , will continue to be a hallmark of Powers Catholic. I believe I speak for the board and the faculty when I say that we would stay at our current campus before we would compromise our programs.

Catholic schools throughout Michigan are facing challenges because of the hard economic times in which we find ourselves. In terms of student enrollment, Powers remains the largest high school in the Diocese of Lansing and is in the top quartile of all Catholic high schools in the state. As a Class B high school, our enrollment is also in the top one-half of all schools in the state. Tough times do not last but Powers Catholic will.

Abide in faith, hope, and love.

Sincerely in Christ,
Thomas Furnas
Principal

Like Amy, I'm curious who would buy such a large block of land on Carpenter Road. And I'm a little concerned about the "Tough times do not last but Powers Catholic will" line. I mean I hope it's true, but wasn't that the semi-official Flint slogan in the eighties? We saw how well that turned out. It might have some bad karma associated with it.

18 comments:

  1. I just got the Powers newsletter in email yesterday which contains a letter from Tom Furnas that they are in negotiations to sell the Carpenter Rd spot (who wants to buy that??) and that there are rumors that some things will be compromised at the possible new locations. He addresses those rumors and the only thing I can think of is that Holy Redeemer doesn't have tennis courts? And I don't remember them having a huge/fabulous basketball court. My only memory of it though was going to Holy Redeemer dances so it was dark! :) Here is his letter:

    Dear Powers Catholic Parent;

    I last wrote to you two months ago to share what I could about our
    efforts to bring about the relocation of our school. In that letter I mentioned that we had received a written off er for our property and were pursuing specific options for a new location.

    We have now entered a period of concrete negotiations with the
    potential buyer to ensure that we receive a fair value for our property and to guarantee that the sale would go through in a time frame that would allow us a proper transition to our new home. There
    are, of course, a number of details to be worked out and we won’t consider the deal done until the legal agreements are signed. We
    are represented by real estate attorneys selected by the Diocese of Lansing.

    While we are still looking at the possibilities surrounding three
    specific options, we have given ourselves a deadline and will present a proposal to Bishop Boyea this winter. Our bishop is engaged in this process and is supportive of our efforts. Again, we will share with you our plans at the earliest possible time.

    Among the rumors floating around, perhaps the most disconcerting
    is that a relocated Powers Catholic will have to give up many of its programs. One of Powers’ great strengths is our commitment to both academic and extracurricular programs that serve students of varying abilities and interests. A staggering percent of our student
    body is involved in our extracurricular program. This richness, along with a dedicated and professional staff , will continue to be a hallmark of Powers Catholic. I believe I speak for the board and the faculty when I say that we would stay at our current campus before we would compromise our programs.
    Catholic schools throughout Michigan are facing challenges because of the hard economic times in which we find ourselves. In terms of student enrollment, Powers remains the largest high school in the Diocese of Lansing and is in the top quartile of all Catholic high schools in the state. As a Class B high school, our enrollment is also in the top one-half of all schools in the state. Tough times do not last but Powers Catholic will.

    Abide in faith, hope, and love.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Thomas Furnas
    Principal

    --Amy, Powers Class of 1994

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, you've written about out of state vultures, I mean investors, buying houses in the worst Flint neighborhoods without ever seeing them, why wouldn't someone buy a big chunk of land and what I'm guessing would be a very low price?

    And Powers wouldn't have to build a new school if they moved into Redeemer, so they'd be saving a lot of that money anyway, so they might be basically giving the Carpenter Road property away.

    I think the building and land are completely paid for. I seem to remember a mortgage burning ceremony some years back. So unless they borrowed against it, they're free and clear.

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  3. According to the 2007-2008 annual report, Powers has an endowment of $2,708,568.83 as of June 30, 2008. So although the school has suffered from falling enrollment and the bad economy has probably put a dent in that figure, it's not like the school is destitute.

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  4. I suspect that the endowment is primarily made up of planned giving bequests that might not actually come in for several (or many) years and in stock gifts (how much are those worth now?) and that the value of "cash on hand" is substanially lower.

    Also, there is generally a gap between what the tuition is and the actual cost of providing the education. I thought that the endowment was meant to cover those costs above what tuition pays for - not for capital expenditures. Of course all of this is pure speculation on my part.

    It also seemed that they could have been more successful in their fundraising (specifically in their past attempts to fund a move) had they hired professional development people for the Advancement office rather than Ron Rolak and Kathy McGee. Coaching basketball and football (and teaching) is entirely different than soliciting major gifts, capital campaigns, grant writing, special events and the other facets of fund development.

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  5. Hee! Hee! The idea of Powers moving into the existing Holy Redeemer buildings -- mercy! Just because buildings are there doesn't necessarily mean the campus is ready to become a modern high school.

    I will say that the "big" school (the old Holy Redeemer High School) would likely be sturdy enough (there was a reason it was a civil defense shelter). But, dang, I went to school there in the 1970s, and it was dated then.

    The small, choppy classrooms. The multiple floors and levels. The basement cafeteria with its low ceilings and a century of encrusted bingo smoke. The tiny gym with tile floor. I really don't think it would be possible to spruce that up and get parents to pay tuition.

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  6. I've been to Holy Redeemer School in the last few years and wonder why Powers would move into a 60yr old building that is in desperate need of help. Besides location - the current Powers campus is much, much better. While it would be a nice central location and a nice for the parrish of HR it seems to be a move made almost in panic.

    I am sure there is more to the story that will come out later.

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  7. Well, this is all just a rumor, so it may never happen. But I have to say I always found Powers to be soulless, from an architectural standpoint. Redeemer sounds like it has more character...but character may not be conducive to learning. And it sounds like they'd have to build a new gym and do some interior work, which would cost some money. But not as much as a new school.

    And don't mention bingo smoke. It gives me flashbacks of working bingo in the basement of St. Mike's to pay for Powers.

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  8. Being the mother of four Powers Catholic graduates I have many happy memories of attending and cheering at our football team’s home games which were held at Holy Redeemer field. The most vivid memories were with my youngest son who was still in Powers after the other three had graduated and gone on to college. Some nights after the game we would drive down Saginaw street, windows open shouting POWERS CATHOLIC!!!! At passing cars and other nights after losing we still yelled as Powers Pride was always present. When I read that Powers may close I was encouraged that it may be able to move on to its “home field” Holy Redeemer. Students who attend Powers receive the advantage of an excellent education, caring and involved teachers and spiritual guidance no matter what their beliefs. Flint and the rest of the country needs to strive for these goals for all our youth wherever they attend school... Many parents sacrificed in the past to send their kids to Powers. Ban together now to help it survive. Take a lesson from Barack Obama and use the power of the internet to organize your alumni in every state and form alumni clubs like Notre Dame .Joe Florenza, get on it ! You were the best at that. It was always my greatest compliment when you called me super mom. GO CHARGERS!

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  9. Holy Redeemer was a step back in time when I was there so it would not only need considerable updates but serious expansion. I can't recall if it had a library, the tile floor gym IS the auditorium, and I dare not speak of the 'locker rooms' near the football field. Having gone to HR for 7 years, the only good thing about it being a high school is you'd only be there for 4 years.

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  10. I went to Holy Redeemer for elementary school and Powers for high school. I loved going to both schools, but for the record it is impossible for Powers to move to Holy Redeemer without leveling the school and rebuilding a new one. The Holy Redeemer buildings are just too bad with little amentities other than the football field. As bad as the old Powers campus was in some ways (no pool or football field), it still had everything else needed for a healthy high school. I really hope Powers finds a new home soon befitting of a great school!

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  11. I attended HR and can see possibilities but also a LOT of need for renovations. It holds a special place in my heart (baptisms, weddings, funerals) for my family. My grandparents were founding members. They donated money back in the day when Mass was being held inside the gymnasium (extremely dated even back in the 70's) with the goal of building a large Church for the South end of town. Just as they made sacrifices to send their children (and grandchildren) to parochial schools, and attending mass in a gym, they made their goal a reality. I hope (and pray) that Powers will exist in one form or another. Transitions are ALWAYS hard. There is a long legacy (and soul) to HR - if this is the plan, I hope we can all dig a little bit out of our pockets to keep it going and to make it work. I live out of state now and would LOVE to have a school (located in any type of building) the caliber of Powers for my kids to attend.

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  12. are there any rumors about a new jail in Flint? the Powers building looks like one!

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  13. I've never been in the HR building, but I can imagine that it is in considerable need of renovation given its age. On the other hand, since enrollment is now so low at Powers it is conceivable that the school no longer needs as much space, so perhaps the current HR building would make an adequate base on which they could not only renovate, but also expand. I don't know how substantial of a difference in costs this would make since I either drove or was dropped off, but there are certainly fewer people who would be bussed from the north end to HR than vice versa, so if this would also cut costs (fuel, maintenance, drivers, the number of buses in the fleet, for ex.) that would also be a plus. It may also be that renovating an old building and putting on another wing (if that's a consideration) costs much less than building a brand new facility - or not - I supppose it depends on what needs to be done.

    I hate to see yet another institution close on the north end, but everyone is looking to cut costs and with enrollment as low as it is they are going to have to do something sooner rather than later.

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  14. Those interested in keeping Holy Rosry met last week as reported in The Davison Index.
    http://thedavisonindex.com/davison/7/parents-discuss-strategy-.shtml

    "The meeting came just two days before Bob Winford, chairman of the team and a local political strategist, was due to go to Lansing to meet with Bishop Earl Boyea to discuss the fate of the schools."



    Bob Winford was quoted in the article: “”We want to have children in a safe, sound Christian environment,” said Winford. “I taught at public schools for 30 years and I know what goes on there. It’s one problem after another.”

    I don't know where this person taught for 30 years to have such an awful experience, (Why didn't he go and teach at a Catholic school if it was so bad?) but I have been a public school teacher for 32 years and have an over all positive experience.

    My children attended public schools, receiving excellent educations.

    I graduated from Holy Rosary high school, when all students, grades 7-12 participated in a 1/2 day, "Shared-Time" program with the Kearsley school district.

    My 87 year old mother still believes that I recieved an education (at Rosary) superior to
    what I would have received if I had been enrolled full time at Kearsley. I don't have the heart to tell her that they were about the same and that I enjoyed my 1/2 days at Kearsley more than at Rosary.

    At the time we all believed we were getting a better education at the Catholic school. Why? Because the priests, nuns and lay teachers told us so. In retrospect, I now realize it was 'catholic propaganda'.

    As an alumnus of Rosary, I get requests to donate to the education fund there. I don't. I do believe that Kearsley schools can provide a quality education for their child, providing the parents be actively involved with their child's classroom activities.

    Holy Rosary together with the parents can provide a quality religious education (rep). All they need to do is to look at St. John's in Davison to see how it is done.

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  15. While I realize that public school education in Michigan is better than many other states, I find it difficult to believe that the quality of education at Catholic schools is as dismal as Anonymous makes out. My stepmother, also a Genesee County public school teacher (who was educated in Catholic schools) makes a similar claim that I find equally difficult to believe.

    When I went to Powers, the public school that I was meant to go to, Swartz Creek, had lost accreditation. Those of us fortunate enough to attend Powers received excellent educations that prepared us well for college.

    In fact, nearly every book that was featured in college lit courses, I had already covered in Powers.

    Likewise, Dave Pettyes' American Foreign Policy class (just to name one class) provided a phenomenal background for several later 400 level history classes in college - which was particularly helpful as my major concentration was in history.

    I'm not saying public schools are bad. What I am asking though, are they REALLY of equally high quality? I graduated in 1984 and while there must be some in our class that did not graduate from college, I do not know of any. In fact, many (if not most)of my classmates seem to have graduate degrees. The same seems to be true of the class of 1983. It would be interesting to see a comparison of Powers graduates to those of other Flint schools.

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  16. I think it's ironic.

    When Powers opened, Holy Redeemer closed their high school to consolidate with the other Catholic high schools into Powers.

    And now Powers may be moving back to Holy Redeemer?

    What goes around...

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  17. As someone who went to BOTH Holy Redeemer High School (last Freshman class) and Powers (first Sophomore class), I find this story very amusing. Moving to Powers for me meant leaving a dismal school site and landing in a modern education factory. Moving Powers to Holy Redeemer? What a depressing thought.

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