A nice Catholic school on the ropes

These are tough times for Catholic schools. I am sure you remember the travails that lead to the closing of the school in Diocese of Madison (HERE). Any number of schools are struggling.

I had an email today from someone at a pre-K-12 Catholic prep school in Lafayette, Louisiana called the John Paul the Great Academy. (I don’t want here discussion of whether or not Bl. John Paul should be called “the Great.) The school apparently used a form of the trivium et quadrivium and also has 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

It seems they are on the ropes right now. You might consider looking at their website.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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20 Responses to A nice Catholic school on the ropes

  1. Matt R says:

    Hi Fr,
    Your link to your older post on the Diocese of Madison is not embedded.

  2. DFWShook says:

    WOW! I just went and took a look at JPGA’s website. Is there a break in the time/space continuum? Is this an episode of the Twilight Zone? Nuns in habits?!? The Tabernacle in front in plain view?!? Altar boys ?!? Gregorian Chant?!? Boys wearing ties?!? Prayers in LATIN?! Is this for real or am I having a flash-back to Mary Star of the Sea in Virginia Beach circa 1969?

  3. happyhockeymom says:

    Very nice school! We definitely need more schools like this. BUT at $5,000 per student – first 2 are full price, 3rd on up get 20% discount – there is no way I could afford to send my kids there. And I am rounding down the cost, especially since the upper grades tuition is a bit higher.

    5 kids – 1st 2 full price =$10,000. kids 3, 4,&5 are $4,000 each with the 20% discount = $12,000.

    Total for all 5 of my kids = $22,000! Are they insane?!

    As a stay at home mom, we barely eke out Catholic school with the family plan at our current school. And I may have to go to work to be able to send my oldest to a Catholic high school. I am irritated that Catholic schools are becoming the province of the rich and so little room for an average family on one income because the mother makes a home.

    You see a few stay at home moms at the elementary level, but by the time kids get to high school, all the moms have jobs just to pay the tuition!

    OK, end of rant.

  4. NoraLee9 says:

    Catherine’s tuition has never dipped beneath $8,000. I concur, this is a hardship for large families. We need vocations.

  5. MissOH says:

    Sigh, all of the good schools are too far away. Just to have a school where the 7th grade and above girls are not going about in thigh high mini-skirts… but to have Latin and sisters in habit on faculty!
    Everything is relative, but the cost would be great in my area for a non-diocesan Catholic school. The independant Catholic schools in our area cost $6500 + for elementary and the diocesan schools (affiliated directly with a parish(s) are around $6000 though the archdiocese has a tuition assistance program.

  6. Great CATHOLIC school, unlike one here in North Texas that allows a Baptist teacher of Science to read the horoscope daily to the students and then tell them Jesus had brothers and sisters. When confronted by a student about what the Church teaches on the matter, the child was put down. He even went to the principal and was basically told that he had serious mental and emotional problems, and that he was too conservative, especially because he would rather stay in the classroom and read the Liturgy of the Hours instead of going out and playing soccer with the kids. And all this from a man, the principal, that used to be in seminary. Let me guess why he didn’t make it through.

    The 14 year old is a convert, moved to convert by watching EWTN. His parents are not Catholic so they can’t help him. I am so glad that God has placed this wonderful child in my life. This is his last year at that school and he is relieved, but he worries about all the children that are still there and those to come. That school would do well to check out John Paul the Great Academy and follow their lead.

  7. ezdellis says:

    @happyhockeymom

    As a father, husband, and Latin teacher who has made many sacrifices to allow my wife to stay at home on a teacher’s salary, I get more than a little defensive about parents thinking $5,000 is ‘crazy.’ In Oklahoma, where I live and work, the state spends $6,613 per student each year in the public schools. Oklahoma ranks 46th in the nation for per pupil spending. No, JPGA are not crazy. $5,000 is a fraction of how much it costs them to recruit and keep talented, knowledgable teachers and provide an authentic, Catholic educational experience. Until we have huge numbers of religious who are willing to dedicate their lives selflessly to educating the young, coupled with Catholic people who understand their duty to tithe, a good education will cost good money. St. John Neumann’s parochial school system was unprecedented in the history of the Church. It was an excellent solution to the problem of compulsory education in a country with an aggressively anti-Catholic majority in charge of public policy and the public purse. For a variety of reasons, the system broke down after just over a hundred years of success, and we have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.

    The Diocese of Wichita has found a workable solution that is almost as good. Parish schools are free-of-tuition to parish members, but parishioners are required to sign contracts that they will give a fair share of their income to support the parish and the school. Of course, not everyone gives the same amount of money, but the important thing is that everyone gives something. The United States government would do well to take notes from the Diocese of Wichita on that account.

    Although this system has allowed the Diocese of Wichita to make parochial schools affordable for all parishioners, the question of what should be taught and how still remains. Several of my friends in Wichita say that the parochial schools differ little from the public schools in curriculum, aims, or culture. It really is just a public school with worse academics, lower teacher pay, and lower performing sports teams, with a religious education class tacked on. Places like JPGA that are asking and trying to answer what a truly ‘Catholic’ education is are not supported by diocesan structures and have to do the best they can without that support. They also often have to contend with outright opposition from the diocese.

    What I can’t understand is why so many parents are willing to go into debt sending their children to universities in the ‘catholic’ tradition or state schools at $20,000/year, but won’t consider paying for secondary education. Why do folks pay a small fortune to send their children to receive formation away from home with the expectation of four years of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll when they refused to pay for the arguably more important and more fundamental formation that they could have gotten at a good, Catholic, secondary school? It seems far more logical to me to send your kids to a school like JPGA or the Lyceum in Ohio where they will learn their trivium and quadrivium and live and breathe the Catholic faith. Once they have received a Catholic formation and education as adolescents, how much more ready will they be to go out into the world, perhaps to a community college, where they can begin learning their trade and prepare to enter the work force?

    It is extremely difficult for private secondary schools to compete with free. Some states have tried to balance the situation with voucher programs (of which JPGA is a recipient!). If we want to make places like JPGA affordable, we need to find some combination of vouchers and diocesan support. At the end of the day, someone has to pay for the education.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    God bless them and prayers. Send your children there, if you are close.

  9. mrsarchieleach says:

    This is why some of us homeschool – either it’s too $$$$ to send one’s child(ren) to the local Catholic school or said school is not particularly orthodox, to be kind about it. While I support the parochial school system in general, we DO need more vocations – get the teaching order nuns back! When I hear what it used to cost to go to the local Catholic elementary school and high school back in the day (a mere couple hundred dollars a year!) it’s astonishing how much it’s increased! Now we have to pay lay professionals to teach and run the schools and all this has contributed to the “watering down” of the Catholic identity of the schools in many cases – not that this is the ONLY contributing factor but surely HAS INFLUENCED the state of the parochial school system.

  10. lucy says:

    I hope some of my friends in Lincoln, NE will chime in here. Their bishop is incredible and puts a lot of emphasis on Catholic school. Some of the parish schools cost $100/year. Yes, you read that correctly. Others are a little more. They go to daily Mass. Yes, daily Mass. We hope to get there one day.

    We have homeschooled these last 8 years. Our eldest child went to the local parochial school, but we were alarmed to learn that the faith was being taught in a wishy-washy way. We were hearing things like, “being a priest is an alternative life style, just like being gay is an alternative life style.” and “the Last Supper was just the last meal that Jesus had with his friends.” etc. We attended a board meeting to try to change some things. We asked specifically to have the religious curriculum be changed to a more orthodox publishing house. The pastor told us that most parents did not care about the faith, but about the academic standards. I said, well, we care. He said that he couldn’t go liberal and he couldn’t go conservative, but sorta down the middle. I said, why don’t we just teach the faith? It was a no-go situation. Five families left the following year, and we were pretty much told by the principal, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out. Very disheartening all the way around. And they wonder why confirmation is the sacrament of leaving the Church.

    One uplifting thing that happened after that meeting was that one of the board members who had stood up and said eloquently that this school had better decide if it was Catholic or not, left that year with us and took his child out of the school as well.

  11. happyhockeymom says:

    I wish homeschooling was always an option, but in my case it is not.

    We need good, orthodox, inexpensive Catholic schools for people like me! For now, I continue to struggle through a less than ideal diocesan school system and may have to get a job to pay for it. *sigh* I will insist on part time hours when the kids are at school when the littlest starts Kindergarten in the fall 0 K is all day in our state.

    I pray and await the day when a truly Catholic education is available for all of those who want it.

    In the mean time, I supplement their religious education at home.

  12. mrsschiavolin says:

    I wonder if they are working with ISPD, development gurus for Catholic schools out of Lafayette. Their CEO is a board member at the Cathedral school there. That Cathedral, by the way, could be the most beautiful in the South.

  13. john_6_fan says:

    Lucy, I have family in Lincoln. As I understand it, many years ago, an endowment was created for the Catholic schools of the diocese, which helps keep tuition very reasonable. In my diocese (Denver), our parish’s school is over $5k per year per child. There has been talk in the last few years of building a Catholic high school nearby, and the diocese has sent out surveys to see if an annual tuition of $15,000-$18,000 would be reasonable. We politely responded “No”.

    We homeschool. Between the tuition cost, the lukewarm catechesis, and other factors, it was our best option. We sent our first daughter to the parish elementary school, but pulled her out after a year and a half. Mostly because of the lack of faith we saw in the school. The children attended weekly Mass and Adoration, but those were always the first things to be cancelled if there was a schedule conflict. In my mind, they should be top priority, attended daily, and all academic work should revolve around them. Sacramental prep wasn’t done in school. It was handled separately by the parish, so our kids would need to attend religious education classes in addition to whatever their daily school religion class. Our daughter’s kindergarten teacher was dancing around the classroom the day after President Obama was elected. There has always been a sense of an “Us versus Them” vibe in how the school regarded the rest of the parish. Not good.

  14. Laura98 says:

    Wow! I wish we had a choice like that around here! While I was more than happy with our parish’s Pre-K and Kindergarten program, we had to switch to another parish for the later grades. This school also had Nuns… er.. Sisters (I was corrected more than once on that…), but they were not in habits. Some of the teachers were wonderful (God Bless them!!!), others… I have to wonder about. I worked in the library on campus, and had more than my fill of the going’s on around it. Besides my issues with the curriculum changes, my daughter was also the victim of bullying, which the school would not address. By the middle of 4th grade, I pulled my daughter out of there and began homeschooling her.

    If the school had been more like this… I think I would have fought harder to keep her in there… even with the cost. For the mediocre education (similar to public school with a daily prayer and weekly catechism thrown in), we paid about $3500 a year – now it’s up to $4,600 a year (out of parish).

  15. ndmom says:

    “I am irritated that Catholic schools are becoming the province of the rich and so little room for an average family on one income because the mother makes a home.”

    Totally agree with ezdellis. The diocesan Catholic school business model is finished. It is no longer possible for dioceses to count on a steady supply of free labor and steady demand from parents willing to accept 40-student classes and minimalist physical plants. Not to mention that Catholic parishioners who have chosen public or non-diocesan private schools for their own children are understandably unenthused about being asked to contribute even more money to their parish to help subsidize the parish school.

    Parents who want a “Catholic education” for their children (which seems to mean different things to different people) need to be willing to pay for it. Or, perhaps, to follow the apparently successful Mormon model. Their kids go to public school, supplemented by serious before- and after-school religious education programs. And it must work, considering the impressive numbers of young Mormon men who eagerly interrupt their college careers to serve 2-year missionary stints, largely financed by their own earnings. Would that Catholic schools produced such zealous advocates for the faith.

  16. kdroberts says:

    Folks: As the founder and headmaster of the school that is the subject of this post, I’d like to chime in about the good discussion of tuition at Catholic schools. Trust me: our school is not the province of the rich. In many ways, that’s exactly why we need support. A larger percentage of our budget goes to underwriting tuition assistance and multi-student discounts than that of any other private school in our state. We do that because we want to preserve a truly Catholic atmosphere. And yet it is hard.

    Even our success in attracting a small community of habited sisters to teach at the school has not saved much money (i.e. tuition reflected that lack of savings), as these orders need to eat and survive. The financial pressures your family feels at home are the same pressures our school feels. Let’s face reality–it’s tough to live the Faith in a world so committed to materialism. And yet someone must.

    I’m all for the wonderful models that exist in some dioceses, whereby families who tithe to their parishes are able to earn very inexpensive tuition rates at their parish’s school. But for those of us that are untethered to a parish or to a religious order, we have to hustle. And you know what? It’s worth it. Our seminarians, our students, our families–all in the midst of Perpetual Adoration–are fighting a heroic battle against the culture. Someone must.

    Thanks again for reading about, and for praying for, our school. I’ll genuinely say that this is about much more than just our school–we have to, for the sake of Catholic education, find some way to educate the lay faithful without charging them the same amount as other private schools.

    God bless you and yours,

    Kevin Roberts, Headmaster
    John Paul the Great Academy

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    My son benefited (mostly) from our Catholic schools, but, he did end up leaving the Church when he was about 18. He was the beneficiary of pretty lousy CCD, the butterflies and rainbow types of instruction. He didn’t listen to me at the time. I don’t blame the school for his lack of interest, of course, but, it didn’t seem to help develop his enthusiasm for his Catholic faith at all.
    Now our local Catholic schools are filled with kids who are not Catholic, and I never understood how surrounding your child with kids who are Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, atheist, was going to advance their participation in their Catholic faith, but, tuition is naturally dear. Naturally kids are influenced by their peers and surroundings. If teachers are wishy-washy Catholics, it’s even worse. Let’s face it, it’s questionable about why teachers end up teaching in Catholic schools. Some are wonderful. Some are not. But the price of tuition is incredible! Our local high school is $12,000 yearly. I could never have afforded that for my son. It definitely is becoming just a private school for wealthy kids. We live in an urban area and there are people who don’t want their kids to go to the public school, and I can’t blame them, not one bit. You’ve got to be a certain kind of kid to thrive.
    One of our local elementary schools, opened in 1892, just announced this week it was closing. Also an urban school, most of the students have been from lower income families, most Latino. I would imagine most families need alot of financial assistance for their kids to attend.

  18. happyhockeymom says:

    @ezdellis

    Iknow $5,000 is reasonable – IF I just had one child in the system, but I have 5! We have struggled to constantly make ends meet. There are no vacations, dinners out, etc in our house. My van is barely holding together. Now some of that has to do with the economy in Michigan. No one here has had even a cost of living increase in forever, even as gas and grocery prices rise – so that pay check buys less and less. I have friends who are Catholic school teachers and I know they get paid very little compared to their public school counterparts.

    Maybe I am just tired of struggling, but I keep on going because the Catholic schools, for all their flaws, are waaaay better than the crummy public schools where I live. I watch friends struggle to continue to pay tuition. Most will continue the struggle through grade school and bail at high school time. The local Catholic high school is $8,200 and no breaks for the 2nd kid. The local state university here is cheaper than the Catholic high school!

    There has to be a balance. We really need religious back teaching our kids – no doubt about it. But, regardless of how reasonable $5,000 per student is, if you have a decent sized family of 4 or more, it just about puts Catholic education out of the picture unless scholarships are available.

    BTW – I would love to see a system in place in our diocese like Wichita. I am willing to give time and money. But a mother should not have to leave homemaking to pay for a Catholic education for her kids. We can do better than this and I am willing to work at being part of the solution. :)

  19. happyhockeymom says:

    @kdroberts

    Totally agree with these two statements: “Let’s face reality–it’s tough to live the Faith in a world so committed to materialism. And yet someone must.”

    AND

    “–we have to, for the sake of Catholic education, find some way to educate the lay faithful without charging them the same amount as other private schools.”

    I will definitely pray for your school and hope that someday there will be one like it for my grandkids.

    I have had so many discussions about the future of Catholic education with my friends that teach and other parents. There has to be a way to do it and I truly admire and support everything you are trying to do at your academy.

    Sorry if I complained a little to much about the tuition. I have been struggling lately with the whole process of getting our son enrolled at the local Catholic high school and trying to figure out where the money is going to come from. I know I would be WAAY more excited about his education and willing to pay for it if it looked like it does at your academy.

    Our diocesan schools are better than the public schools by a long shot and not anywhere near as bad as some Catholic schools I have heard about. But, I guess as a convert, I want the whole kit and caboodle!

    God Bless you and watch over your school. :0

  20. EXCHIEF says:

    kdroberts
    Your school is in my prayers. Thanks for what you and your school do. It is a shame that we do not have tuition credits to apply to private education in an amount equal to what we pay in taxes for secularistic (I’m being kind) public schools.