I am writing an open letter to the Rockaway community today to seek your help and guidance in a very sad situation that has occurred in Rockaway this week. As you have probably heard either through social media or from talking to your neighbors, the Brooklyn Diocese has announced the closing of St. Camillus Catholic Academy as of June 30th, 2019. St. Camillus has always been a small school that has catered to a more one-on-one interaction between the students and teachers. Children that had trouble flourishing at either, St. Francis, St. Rose or one of the public schools seemed to thrive and find their way at St. Camillus. It is that old fashion little school house with one class per grade. It is the little engine that could and did.
Unfortunately, the majority of the Rockaway community heard about the potential closing before the Diocese of Brooklyn was able to inform the parents and staff of St. Camillus. A letter indicating an important meeting for February 7, 2019 was leaked to the media. This was unfair to the families and staff to have been told this way.
The reason that St. Camillus is closing is due to the lack of registration and participation from the community for the 2019-20 academic year and the failure of some parents to pay their tuition. As of now, only 90 students had registered for next year and the school is owed approximately $114,000 in back tuition.
It was also revealed at a meeting with Diocesan representatives that originally the school lost $35,000 in 2017-18 school year. However, when the final financials were performed in December, that figure was increased to $100,000. The financial reserves that St. Camillus has, have become severely depleted and unable to cover its expenses.
The Diocese has been looking to close St. Camillus for some time. For over forty years, St. Camillus has been rumored to be closing. In fact, these rumors had escalated over the past 14 years that I have been affiliated with St. Camillus. I had been told on many occasions that one particular educator in the community had told potential families not to consider St. Camillus because it was closing.
When the school became an academy four years ago, it established a board of directors and a five-year strategic plan, which was never fully implemented. At the beginning of this current school year, the academy board hired a new principal, Mr. Raffaele Corso. I believe that the Diocese allowed him to be hired to fail. He came in and immediately the tone and tenor of the school changed. The children and teachers were happy. He instituted a greater sense of accountability among the teachers and the students. He came in with great ideas to improve the school and re-establish St. Camillus as a school of educational excellence. With this closure, he is not being given the opportunity to fulfill his mission.
As a parent of a St. Camillus student, I am trying to do whatever I can to save the school and convince the Diocese to change their minds. I am reaching out to anyone who may have a connection to St. Camillus, either as an alumnus or former band member or had a family member attend St. Camillus. I am fully aware that there are those among the Rockaway community that may have a bad memory of certain teachers or principals, or even a classmate. The school today is not the school that you remember. The present faculty and principal are dedicated to helping all the students, regardless of their ability, to achieve their full potential.
The closing of St. Camillus poses a potential overcrowding both at St. Francis, St. Rose, and the other schools on the peninsula, as our students seek a new school, as well as the new families moving into the new developments here in Rockaway. St. Camillus is a needed and essential jewel that should be saved and preserved to help. This overcrowding will increase the student to teacher ratio at these schools and increase the pressures on the faculties at these schools.
I would like to thank you for your time and any help you could offer in trying to save St. Camillus.
John J. Schilling
I am saddened to hear the news about the closing of St. Camillus. It is disheartening to think that after 68 years that the community has failed to support this “little school house”. I understand that the registration for next 2019-20 school year is only 90 students. As I talked to friends and family members, I was told that the school has a maximum for 200 students. As I understand, it had the enrollment/registration been 150 or 75 percent of the capacity the school would remain open. As an alumnus of St. Camillus, I would call on any family that is not happy in their current situation, no matter what school you have your children in, to please call the principal at St. Camillus and say you would like to enroll your child. I believe if we get this enrollment up to 150 percent, we can save the school.
Your suggestion in your High Tides section of the February 7 issue of The Rockaway Times is a reality in Community Board 5, Queens (Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village).
For many years now, at our December meeting, we start early, have a light agenda and then invite all present to join in a holiday party, with food and refreshments. It is our way of thanking the residents of the district for their respect and support throughout the year.
Vincent Arcuri, Jr., ChairpersonBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS