GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 30, 2013

Parents decry St. Ann closing action

St. Ann School parents shuffling through their mail Thursday said Monday they felt “shocked” and “disappointed” when they unfolded letters sent from the school to notify families of the remaining 90 students that the 128-year-old school was closing in June due to a decline in enrollment and some say, due to promised millions in funds that never arrived.

When noted greater Boston non-profit fund-raiser Jack Connors vowed to raise $4.5 million for St. Ann School in 2008, enrollment grew, peaking at 189 students by 2010.

But, when those promised funds never showed, enrollment slipped again, never reaching the target number of 224 to 261 students. Without the money, the school was unable to perform planned renovations on the building and upgrades to equipment, according to school trustees’ vice chairman David Girard said Monday.

“That was the expectation — that there was going to be a huge change in the plans and the fund-raising,” Girard said. “That’s what induced people to get interested. The building was going to be completely renovated from top to bottom and when that didn’t happen, that certainly was a disappointment.”

The Campaign for Catholic Schools raised just over $265,000 in pledges for St. Ann School over the past five years. But, the other 94 percent of the promised millions “just never showed up,” Girard said. Connors did not return calls made to his office for comment Monday. School trustees’ chairman Joseph Parisi III refused to comment on the school’s closing when reached by telephone Monday.

Girard said the school ends each year with empty pockets and usually turns to the Archdiocese of Boston for help.

He noted, however, that the archdiocese has reached hard times, too, and spokesperson for the diocese, Terrence Donilon, said in an interview Friday that the diocese could no longer “subsidize” the school. Girard said the school board waited as long as they could, and when it became clear that there was absolutely no solution, they mailed out the letter.

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