Redemptorist High School parents and alumni are asking the Baton Rouge Catholic Diocese to let go of the school it wants to close so they can run it independently.
Save Redemptorist supporters envision transforming the school within two years into a faith-rooted learning environment that mixes hands-on job training with more challenging Advanced Placement courses. Plunging enrollment with 150 students anticipated next year forced diocese leaders to close the school, but the Save Redemptorist campaigners would aim to begin the next school year with 200 students.
They say the diocese has missed opportunities to recruit baptized Catholics who feel alienated by the private school system but whose children are attending public schools.
Between reaching out to the Catholic base across Baton Rouge and igniting a marketing campaign to recruit students, Save Redemptorist campaigners hope to grow enrollment by 20 percent annually for the next two years. That’s the transition period outlined in their proposed strategy for shifting control of the school from the diocese to the Save Redemptorist group.
Donna Carville, diocese spokeswoman, confirmed that they received the plan via email and said they would respond “in a timely manner.” The negotiations could be one-sided, as diocese officials have repeatedly said the decision to close the school is final.
“Certainly from a diocese standpoint a decision has been made, but this group is trying to do their very best (and) we’re certainly open to their proposals,” Carville said.
Initial revenue for the independent Redemptorist is expected to come from tuition, short-term voucher funds, tuition reimbursement money and donations from alumni.
The future of the school’s voucher program is in question, and the proposal states they are working with the Louisiana Tuition Donation Rebate program, which raises money from companies and individuals to give scholarships to students. Once the scholarships are awarded, the state audits the donations and the companies are paid back 95 percent of their money, according to Arete Scholars Development Director Danny Willis.
He said they do not have many students in the Baton Rouge area on such scholarships, but they have many in the New Orleans Catholic schools system and others in north Louisiana.
The eight-page proposal does not specify details of the scholarships, but does say this would be an avenue for ninth-graders who are on vouchers this year to return to Redemptorist next year.
Students don’t have to meet certain test scores to stay eligible for the new scholarships unlike vouchers, and Redemptorist leaders will be able to become more selective about who is awarded the scholarships. They can screen potential students before deciding who is admitted. To be eligible, students’ families can’t earn more than certain amounts that are tied to federal poverty guidelines and vary based on household size.
The proposal also mentions that if the new Redemptorist could accept voucher students, special tutoring sessions, peer mentoring and other programs would be put in place to bring up their scores.
Redemptorist also would continue to maintain its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation and it would have its own school board made up of the principal, stakeholders, business leaders, parents and at-large members.
The school would have college preparatory curriculum, alternative trade and craft skill training, a dyslexia lab and a special education program. Class sizes would range from 20 to 24 students per teacher, and current Principal Dary Glueck would remain at the school’s helm.
“We have had several industrial leaders and companies who have requested to partner with Redemptorist to offer programs that will be unique to only Redemptorist,” the proposal states, specifically mentioning Associated Builders and Contractors. “These companies have agreed to partner with the school to offer on-site industrial education that will enable those non-college students to obtain high wage earning jobs upon graduation.”
Over the next two years, money raised through a fundraising campaign would go toward paying off Redemptorist’s debt to the diocese, with at least 20 percent of debt being paid by the end of June 2016. The rest would be paid off when Redemptorist officially becomes an independent school.
Donations from corporate sponsors, parents and others would also go toward sprucing up the school with new paint, upgraded lighting and more.
In the proposal, the school’s supporters ask the diocese to remember the spirit of Catholicism and Pope Francis’s comments about the church taking to the streets, evangelizing and riling up new ideas. It’s signed “Save Redemptorist.”