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Archdiocese and Holy Name working on plan to address school's finances

Officials of the Archdiocese of Omaha and Holy Name School in Omaha are beginning to develop a plan they believe will improve the financial outlook of the North Omaha school, according to a statement from the chancery.

After assessing the school's fiscal year budget and identifying potential funding sources, archdiocesan officials are optimistic that the school's reported deficit is already at a more manageable level, the statement said.

Father Frank Baumert, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Omaha, announced in a Feb. 12 Omaha World Herald story that the 93-year-old school is more than $300,000 in debt and that the funds need to be raised by March 15 for Holy Name to open for the 2010-11 school year. He blamed unexpected maintenance costs and the bad economy on the school's financial troubles.

Father Baumert met with Archbishop George J. Lucas, Msgr. James Gilg, superintendent of Catholic schools, and other archdiocesan officials Feb. 16 to review the school's financial situation.

"Holy Name School's financial situation looks better than it was thought," said Father Joseph Taphorn, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha. "We think we've identified areas for the school to make some strategic budget and operation adjustments while drawing on untapped funding sources."

He said these two actions alone will improve the financial outlook at the school, which is one of the archdiocese's seven CORE inner-city Catholic schools. But, "this isn't to say that there isn't a situation that still needs attention and still needs a lot of work," he said.

Father Taphorn said the archdiocese is invested in Holy Name's success, adding that the archdiocese has given the school more than $135,000 in the last three years.

Archbishop Lucas directed Father Baumert, the archdiocese's Catholic Schools Office and Catholic OutReach for Education (CORE) Board to further develop a plan that will position the school more favorably in the future. The CORE Board is the archdiocese's inner-city schools advisory board.

Valentine's Day meeting

Father Baumert discussed the school's finances and options Feb. 14 at a meeting with nearly 200 parents, neighbors, faculty and staff of Holy Name School and parishioners of Holy Name Parish.

He assured the crowd that the school would not close before the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

Even if funds are raised to meet the projected deficit of $309,000, he said the school would face another deficit of $150,000 for the next school year.

The question is can the parish sustain a $1.3 million budget and cover the deficit for next year, Father Baumert said.

"Covering the deficit for this year is a Band-Aid, not the solution," he said. "This month, we can pay the bills. Next month, we're in trouble."

     Father Baumert discussed the possibilities of consolidating Holy Name with some of the other Catholic schools in the area, of raising tuition and of closing Holy Name, which currently has 162 students enrolled.

None of those solutions are ideal, he said, especially for the parish and the Holy Name neighborhood.

Web sites launched

Several fundraising efforts, including soliciting donations from the school's alumni, also were discussed.

The school launched two Web sites - www.helpholyname.org and www.helpholyname.com - Feb. 18 where people can read about Holy Name and make a donation.

School administrators also hope people will tell their stories about why they want to see Holy Name continue.

In addition to the Web sites, people already have called friends and written checks - 13 people made $1,000 donations during the parish's Feb. 12 fish fry - in an effort to save the school.

Holy Name's development office has requested assistance from 10 foundations that fund general operating expenses and is waiting to hear back. There is $335,000 to be had in those requests, said Colleen Peterson, development director. She said her office already brought $172,000 into the school this school year.

Father Taphorn said the archdiocese supports the school's efforts to raise funds, and he is aware that some people stepped up already at the Feb. 14 meeting and made some pledges.

      "Any time we can broaden the base support, that's a wonderful thing," he said.



'Community of learners'

In addition to a K-8 education, Holy Name provides a preschool program, day care, a before and after school program, and a summer meal program.

"It's in everybody's best interests to keep this open," said Principal Sofie Kock.

Children at Holy Name bring many different life experiences to the classroom, she said, and teachers are encouraged to build "a community of learners" out of this diverse group.

"What better life skills could a child learn now than to work with others who are different than them? What better thing could we teach them than to be appreciative of their talents and also recognize the talents of others?" Kock said. "That's our huge gift to the children at Holy Name."

WANT TO GIVE?

To make a donation to Holy Name School in Omaha, visit www.helpholyname.org or www.helpholyname.com. Tax-deductable donations also can be made on the school's official Web site, www.holynameomaha.org.

Another meeting will be held in the church cafeteria Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. to continue discussing fundraising efforts.

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