by Gary Kopycinski*
The last few weeks have been very difficult for all at Marian Catholic High School. The stories that have surfaced in the press have not been kind to our Marian family, but it has caused all of us to reflect on why we love Marian Catholic High School. The press coverage, if anything, has drawn us closer.
A fair number of people have asked me to comment on what happened at Marian. Let me start here: Marian Catholic remains the caring community it has always been.
Here’s the story the media missed: Officials at Marian Catholic High School notified families at least twice not to send their student to class at the beginning of the quarter unless a payment or contact was made to the school. The numbers were larger than usual due to the economy and storm damage to computer lines for on-line payment. The policy, however, has been in effect for years. The difference this year was the large number of students who were behind in payments.
The Southtown Star was only the most recent to miss that, choosing instead to editorialize without researching the facts. On March 18, the Southtown Star said:
We understand the situation, but officials were wrong to do this without first notifying parents it could happen if they remained delinquent. It also was wrong to treat those owing small amounts in the same manner as those with huge debts.
That is completely incorrect. Parents were notified beginning in January that students whose accounts were delinquent would be withheld from class.
That having been said, the rest of the Southtown Star’s editorial is without merit.
Our President, Sr. Judine Hilbing, O.P., released the following statement :
As you are most likely aware, the current state of the economy has placed unprecedented financial burdens on families all over our nation. What you may not have been aware of is that among these are Marian Catholic families who could not meet their tuition commitments for this quarter.
On Monday, the financial committee of Marian Catholic High School, as it does routinely, excluded a number of students from beginning their fourth quarter. This action, which is customarily handled privately and discreetly, has been made public by the media due to the larger–than-usual number of students affected.
In view of the recent media reports, we feel an explanation of the situation of exclusion of students as it evolved at the beginning of the fourth quarter is needed.
In an effort to operate out of sound business practices, Marian Catholic has consistently used attendance at the beginning of each quarter as a check point for families who are in arrears with tuition. Parents are contacted directly through statements and/or letters at least twice before the beginning of the quarter. If it becomes necessary to withhold a student from class, we attempt to be as discrete as possible to ensure confidentiality.
The situation on Monday was exacerbated by the fact that storm damage caused our phone lines and internet service to be inoperable from Saturday night through Monday morning. This prevented some families from making last-minute payments and kept us from being able to communicate with parents.
We apologize for that difficulty and are making every attempt to serve families as quickly and graciously as possible. On Thursday, March 12, the executive council will meet to distribute additional assistance from the Sister Simeon Fund which was started by a sister with a generous heart and is kept active by the contributions of the many generous donors who believe in our mission at Marian Catholic High School.
We want to offer our most sincere apologies if any of our procedures were interpreted as destructive of the caring environment we continue to foster. We have already reviewed our tuition collections procedures and will continue to refine them so that we can be sensitive to the individual while being fiscally responsible to the institution and to the total school community.
With the combined efforts of our outstanding student body, our dedicated faculty and staff, our active and supportive parents, and the sponsorship of the Dominican Sisters, we will continue to offer quality education and a multitude of extracurricular activities. We pledge ourselves to build on the good stewardship and accountability of the past 50 years and move into the second half of a century as a strong and vibrant community of learning where students can grow and succeed.
One of my favorite sayings in the Catholic Church comes from Pope John XXIII, “Ecclesia semper reformanda est,” or “The Church is always in need of reform.” One of our strengths at Marian is our ability to learn from our mistakes. We are always learning, always growing. We’re patient with our students, and realize that we need to be patient and understanding with each other as well.
The school has always been a strong, close-knit and supportive community. We’re very proud of our students. We’re proud of their academic accomplishments, and their commitment to the community. Our students have a wonderful reputation for service outside Marian, and they continue this service after they leave.
In my classes, we’re praying for each other during these difficult financial times. We should all do the same.
*The writer is an educator at Marian Catholic High School, and Editor and Publisher of eNews Park Forest.