It is unfortunate that we must close Immaculata High School. Its superb reputation of producing outstanding graduates and spiritual leaders is indisputable. Immaculata has clearly left an indelible mark on the Leavenworth and Lansing community, as well as the entire Kansas City area.
The wonderful reputation and immense sacrifices of many families have kept the doors open for the last decade, despite the overwhelming financial and enrollment challenges. The 2007 Meitler study predicted this day would come.
It is time to celebrate the legacy of Immaculata. We must move forward with fond memories and life-changing stories about a treasured part of Leavenworth’s history.
To this day, Immaculata has remained a high performing Catholic high school with outstanding and caring faculty, staff and coaches. They are supported by a fiercely loyal community of alumni and patrons dedicated to Catholic education. Our current students are learning, happy, productive and totally engaged in every aspect of our school. Our graduates have easily transitioned to higher education and successful careers. They continue to succeed at every endeavor. We will continue to perform at a high level until the last day of school.
Our student population is not increasing at the rate necessary to generate the revenue and sustain a high quality academic experience for our high school students. Very reliable studies consistently suggest that the population in Leavenworth and Lansing has stabilized, will not grow, and may eventually decrease. The average household income will see very little growth. The population growth and increase in household income is in southern Leavenworth County. If a Catholic high school is considered in the future, the demographics support it being built closer to the Basehor area.
The most sobering fact contributing to Immaculata’s closure is the cost per student far exceeds the revenue per student, while families continue to seek additional financial assistance. Modest tuition and fee increases would have little impact on reducing the approximately $5,000 per student, cost-revenue gap. Furthermore, the building and facilities are deteriorating, maintenance costs are increasing, we cannot keep up with technology requirements, and we have exhausted all of our financial reserves. There are no significant donors or donations on the horizon, and no community partners willing to make a significant investment to support a school with consistently dwindling enrollment.
The Board of Trustees looked at every possible course of action to keep Immaculata open. Just opening the doors of Immaculata every year is not a viable approach to sustaining an attractive school that draws new students. It takes students and the proper funding to maintain a high quality academic institution that attracts quality teachers, provides adequate professional development, and offers a variety of extracurricular activities and competitive athletic programs. This is what parents expect of a high performing school. It has been determined that we cannot achieve this.
I accepted the dual responsibilities of president of the Leavenworth Regional Catholic School System, and principal of Immaculata with the understanding that we had four years of financial stability to turn things around. The amount of funds raised by the “Bridge to the Future” 2015 spring appeal was not sufficient given the enrollment. In 18 months, we have spent all of the money received, which is more than half that pledged, in addition to depleting all of our reserves.
With the unwavering support from the Board of Trustees, we started to turn things around. We took actions to achieve resource efficiencies, improve business operations and budgeting, redefined job responsibilities, restructured the school system, stabilized enrollment and improved enrollment management, redefined our brand and approach to marketing, enhanced our social media presence, reestablished community partnerships, invigorated extracurricular and athletic programs, improved parent partnerships and relationships, and successfully dealt with multiple employee changes in key positions. In the end, this was not enough to draw new students and sustain our school. My focus will now shift to supporting our students and families as they transition to new schools, aggressively work to assist the staff and teachers in finding new jobs, and plan and prepare for the next school year at Xavier Catholic School.
Immaculata will close with the last graduating class in May 2017. I am so appreciative of the staff, faculty, parents and volunteers who welcomed me into the Leavenworth community and have loyally supported Immaculata and our students. With more than 100 wonderful years of educating young men and women there is truly much to celebrate. We must not lose sight of that magnificent achievement and the tremendous contributions to our community and nation made by Immaculata’s staff, teachers and graduates.
Richard V. Geraci is the principal of Immaculata Catholic School and president of the Leavenworth Regional Catholic School System.