School Closing Announcement from Sr. Luke Parker, SJC
March 3, 2017
Dear Cluny School Community,
Earlier this week, I met with many of you to deliver to deliver some important but difficult news.
It was with deep sadness that I announced that Cluny School would close at the end of the current academic year due to insurmountable financial challenges triggered by a steady drop in enrollment over the past several years. I realize this news came as a shock.
Despite the best efforts of so many to reverse the trend in declining Catholic school enrollment, the School’s leadership in January reached the conclusion that we did not have sufficient resources to continue our mission of “educating and empowering our students to live lives of integrity based on Gospel values.”
Among those who did so much to try and chart a different outcome for Cluny School is head of school Bill Lippe. Bill joined us in 2014 and in his relatively short tenure here, he worked very hard to make important changes, streamline operations, boost enrollment and reduce expenses. Despite his best efforts, and the work of others, it simply wasn’t enough to stem the tide of declining enrollments.
I recognized and thanked our Cluny School Board Members for their commitment to and belief in the mission of Cluny School. Their advice, policy making, fiscal oversight and journey with me throughout this challenging and difficult time has enriched and blessed my life as well as the life of Cluny School.
Most of all, I took a moment to thank our Cluny Sisters-those living and those who have died. Since the doors of Cluny School opened in 1957, in response to the Fort Adams Navy Community’s search for a Catholic school environment here on Brenton Road, the Cluny Sisters have been the vision and spirit supporting this beautiful mission; they have been school’s leaders, faculty and volunteers. Cluny Sisters of the United States and Canada throughout these 60 years have prayed, supported and sacrificed to make Cluny School all we love and admire today.
In the face of what I know remains painful news, I want to underscore a critical point: the closure of Cluny School will not overshadow its rich history nor the important contributions our graduates have made, and will continue to make, in this world. No matter where you are, ‘Once a Cluny, ALWAYS a Cluny!’.
As you continue to absorb this difficult news, allow me to provide some important details about the remaining months of the current and final school year.
To begin with, please know that our number one priority will be completing this academic year as scheduled, with classes ending in June and our final graduation taking place, as scheduled, on Friday, June 9th. We owe that to our students and families, and to our faculty and staff.
Our second priority is helping our students and their families find new schools and assist faculty and staff to find new employment opportunities beyond Cluny School.
For our students, we intend to work with other Catholic schools to arrange informational meetings and tours for students and their families. We are also going to make it as easy as possible for our students to secure the records needed to transfer to other schools.
When it comes to helping our faculty and staff find new employment opportunities, we will do all that we can.
To help the School address the financial challenges triggered by a steady drop in enrollment, the Cluny School’s Board of Directors sought the appointment of a Special Master by the Rhode Island Superior Court to provide a public report within three weeks on the financial condition of the school. The court agreed to our request and has appointed attorney Theodore Orson as Special Master. We have already begun working with Attorney Orson and will continue to do so in the coming days and weeks.
I recognize that in sharing this very sad news, there may be important questions we cannot yet answer. We pledge to be transparent in keeping you apprised of where things stand. We also recognize that students remain understandably sad and upset about this announcement. Their teachers have been immeasurably helpful in comforting students and answering questions to the best of their ability.
For those who may take to Facebook and other social media platforms to talk about our closing, I would encourage you to temper the sadness of any messages with the fond memories of a school that has provided a vital service to our students and the community for the past sixty years. I would also encourage you to do all you can to make these next few months a time to celebrate the GOOD we have been able to do and give thanks and praise that we have been able to participate in the mission of Jesus and proclaim the joy of the Good News for 60 years.
As we journey through these 40 Days of the Lenten Season and the belief that pain, suffering and even death leads to Resurrection and New Life, I ask God to bless each of you and ask St. Joseph, our Patron, to hold our beloved Cluny School close. May St. Joseph, as he did for Mary and Jesus, care for us, protect us and guide us.
Sr. Luke Parker