Response sent to those who contacted SCN regarding the decision to close Our Lady of Nazareth Academy
We received your correspondence regarding Our Lady of Nazareth Academy (OLN) and we hear your deep emotion surrounding this decision. Please know that it is with heavy hearts that we announced that the school will be closing at the end of the school year. We assure you that this very difficult decision was made after a great deal of deliberation and based on the current financial realities facing the Sisters of the Charity of Nazareth (SCN) and the school.
The nature of SCN ministries has evolved over the years, due in large part to the changing characteristics of our Congregation: the median age of our Sisters has increased, fewer Sisters are available to work in ministries such as schools, and fewer women are entering religious life. As a result of these realities, the Sisters are forced to make difficult decisions regarding allocations of limited personnel and financial resources. Consequently, the Sisters have no other choice but to require congregational ministries to be self -sustaining.
Nazareth Academy is the last remaining single-sex school in the SCN ministries to close, staying open as long as it has is due in large part to the determination and hard work of the school’s local volunteer board of directors.
Despite tireless efforts of OLN’s board over many years to keep the school financially viable — including recruiting a dynamic and progressive principal and investing in stepped-up student recruitment and marketing efforts — Nazareth Academy has lacked the kind of philanthropic support from its constituencies that would generate the millions needed to upgrade the school’s antiquated facilities and keep it competitive. In the late 1990s, a feasibility study showed a needed minimum capital investment of $10 to $15 million, and at that time, the school’s donor base did not have the financial capacity.
With many educational options available, many prospective students have chosen to enroll in other schools, and of late, with the struggling economy, many families have not been able to shoulder the cost of private education. The result is dramatically smaller class sizes and decreased tuition revenue at OLN, further shifting the financial burden to charitable giving at a time when the philanthropic community has been hard hit.
The financial picture is bleak; the numbers are not on our side. There is really no good time for making a tough decision like the one we have had to make. Our focus going forward is to move past the pain of this decision and help the young women of Nazareth Academy make the best possible transition. OLN administration is moving quickly on behalf of the students and their families, reaching out to area school principals and admissions staff to engage their support and help, and already has made progress on this front.
It is our hope that we can get to a place where OLN’s alumnae and friends can stand together, appreciate and reflect on the contributions that Nazareth Academy has made to the lives of women over the years.
Sister Judy Raley
SCN, Inc. President & Chair