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Holy Family School

Holy Family School was shining beacon for Le Roy, Western New York

By Daniel Crofts

Le Roy's Holy Family School closed its doors for the last time a couple of weeks ago, but the school will long be remembered for the outstanding staff and students who graced its hallways and classrooms, for the positive community atmosphere it enjoyed, and for what it meant to local families during its 123-year history.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hansen

There were 10 students in the final graduating class of the school at 46 Lake St., which was attached to Our Lady of Mercy Parish and served pupils in pre-K through eighth-grade. Students came not only from Le Roy, but also from elsewhere in Genesee County as well as Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties.

Photo courtesy of the Le Roy Historical Society

The school has seen a lot of changes -- including a change in its name -- since it was first staffed by the Sisters of Mercy more than 120 years ago (see the  timeline of milestones at the end of this story). Throughout all of these changes, its tradition of academic excellence and thriving school family remained much the same.

People who were part of the Holy Family community are filled with sadness, but also with fond memories and hope for the future.

Here are some stories that give an idea of just how special a place Holy Family was:

Michael Ficarella

Michael Ficarella, of Batavia, was hired as a sixth- through eighth-grade teacher at Holy Family School for the 2011-2012 school year. It was his first full-time teaching job.

"I couldn't have picked a better school to start (teaching)," Ficarella said.

He talked about the supportive team of teachers who welcomed and helped him throughout the year.

"From real early on, they were always coming by my room to see how I was doing, offering pointers on how to make this or that lesson better or how to make the classroom run smoother, etcetera."

In addition to teaching science and social studies, Ficarella also worked with younger students in the school's after-school program. During his brief time at Holy Family, he got to know a lot of kids.

"The students were great," he said. "They were well-mannered, very eager to learn and took pride in their school."

He mentioned the eighth-grade field trip to Washington, D.C., on which the kids were "phenomenal."

Despite losing his job his first year teaching, Ficarella said he is "absolutely 100 percent" glad of the experience and has no regrets.

The Hansen Family

Photo courtesy of Kelly Hansen

One of Ficarella's students was Alex Hansen, who was part of Holy Family School's final graduating class. He attended the school from kindergarten through eighth-grade.

"(The graduation) was bittersweet," said Kelly Hansen, Alex's mother. "What we were witnessing was never to take place at Holy Family School ever again."

"There were many 'lasts' over the past few months. It was very difficult for everyone as the adults tried to make the last days of school the best they could possibly be."

Hansen said that the decision she and her husband made to send Alex to Holy Family was "curious to some because we live in Batavia."

"The answer is never an easy one," she said, "but it always contains the same elements. The high test scores, great word-of-mouth, a place where God could be mentioned without fear of ridicule, not to mention a stellar reputation within the community for more than one hundred years."

She and her husband were also impressed with the parish to which the school was connected, which was called St. Peter's at the time.

"I'm not sure there would be a way to calculate the grand sum from the parish that has kept the school afloat for 123 years," she said.

Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Mercy Parish Secretary Sue Bobo

Of course, the school environment was also a major factor in the decision.

"We were impressed with what we saw the day we first visited," Hansen said. "Children holding the door for us as we came and went, walking down the halls and having students greet us without an adult to prompt them, students standing and greeting adults as they entered a classroom -- all this left us knowing that we were making the right decision for our family."

Second-grade teacher Patty Page is pictured with her granddaughter at a Halloween party at Holy Family School. Photo courtesy of Sue Bobo.

As for the teachers, their "commendable dedication" has left an impression on Hansen.

"Many teachers at (Holy Family School) have taught for 20 or more years," she said. "Catholic school teachers are state certified yet make a small fraction of what their public school counterparts do. They clearly are not in their chosen profession for the money -- it is something they do because they love it."

She sees this as part of a pattern of sacrifices that everyone involved in the Catholic school system makes for what they consider the greater good.

"Most families who choose to send their children to a Catholic school quietly go without things other families take for granted so that their children may reap the abundant benefits," she said.

"We’ve had the same car over the course of all nine years (of Alex attending Holy Family School). It is a bit rustier and a lot noisier. It has driven from Batavia to Le Roy hundreds of times, often carrying multiple students to one event or another."

"To pay for education that could otherwise be obtained for free at a public school is a bizarre choice to some," she said. "But for us it was the only option we could imagine. Anyone familiar with Catholic education knows about the sacrifices made in order for it to be possible."

The Winters Family

Photo courtesy of Bryan Winters

When first-grader Anna Rose Winters learned that her school would be closing, she was very sad. But then the first question that came out of her mouth was: "What are the uniforms like at St. Joe's?"

Anna Rose, like other Holy Family students, will attend St. Joseph School in Batavia in the fall.

"She went through the normal grief stages," said her father, Bryan Winters. "There were tears, but then she very quickly started to incorporate St. Joe's."

Winters was on Holy Family School's Finance Committee for several months, which put Anna Rose in a "unique situation."

"She's a smart kid -- she could read the writing on the wall," he said. "We were honest with her from the beginning that her school could close, but we'd try our best."

And try they did. According to Winters, who makes his living raising money for the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, the committees formed by parents to help save the school "were doing all the right things."

"It's remarkable how much money we were able to raise with the time constraint," he said. "But there were a lot of needs-based scholarships (and other expenses that could not be met with the current student enrollment)."

Like his daughter, Winters also went through the grieving process. But he has a "very great feeling" about St. Joe's and is optimistic about Anna Rose's future.

"(Of course), there are families who have been at Holy Family for three or four generations," he said. "Their grieving process is probably longer, and that's understandable. But I need to think of the best interests of my daughter. We're going to get fully involved in St. Joe's."

Bryan and Kate Winters moved to Le Roy from Monroe County a few years ago. Holy Family School was the main reason for their move.

Having just started a family, they wanted to move to the country to give their kids (they have two younger children in addition to Anna Rose) some "breathing room." But they also wanted to make sure the kids received a Catholic education.

"We looked around Western New York and the Finger Lakes region," Winters said. "We toured different schools in Livingston and Monroe counties, and even some in Erie County."

They were very selective in their search, because everything in their lives is a "distant second to our kids."

When they went to an open house at Holy Family, "that sealed the deal."

"That was where we knew we felt at home (at Holy Family)," Winters said. "We learned about the different programs and the curriculum -- they had a very rigorous program. We liked the student-teacher ratio. It was primarily for that reason that we moved to Le Roy."

With three years as a Holy Family parent under his belt, Winters still sings the school's praises loudly.

"It blows my mind that there were people around here who didn't send their kids to Holy Family," he said. "They must not have known what we had there."

Pictured Principal Kevin Robertson with Mrs. Page's second-grade class. Photo courtesy of Sue Bobo.

Like Ficarella and Hansen, he touted the supportive atmosphere the school offered.

"We could call or email any time, and (the issue) was taken care of," he said. "There was a real family feel, whether it was students with teachers or families with teachers. It was an open community."

Part of this openness was the teachers' willingness to share personal stories with their students.

"Every once in a while Anna Rose would share a story at dinner about a teacher's dog, or about Mrs. So-and-So's son getting into a certain college," Winters said. "The fact that these teachers would recognize (for example) that a first-grader wants to hear stories about a dog means a lot. It goes back to that feeling of family."

Winters' wife is a teacher, so the two of them "have a pretty good pulse on what a good teacher is."

"And these teachers -- they had it," he said.

And the students weren't bad, either.

"The Holy Family slogan was 'Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders,' and I think that's what they were doing," Winters said.

He commented on how the kids would hold doors for people and demonstrate politeness in other ways.

"All that stuff goes above and beyond two plus two," he said. "It was about more than just standardized testing; the focus was on growing the student as a person. It was built into the curriculum."

Anna Rose is excited about going to St. Joe's, but she and her family will always have fond memories of Holy Family School.

STORY CONTINUES after the jump (click the headline to read more):

A Brief History in Pictures

Holy Family's original name was St. Peter's School, after the church with which it was affiliated (St. Peter's Church became Our Lady of Mercy Parish in 2008). The school was placed in the charge of the Sisters of Mercy, who lived in Batavia and commuted every day by train the first year.

A photo of St. Peter's academic department in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the Le Roy Historical Society, originally published in the Le Roy Gazette.

St. Peter's grew significantly between its founding in 1889 and 1955, when it was expanded to serve the children of both Catholic parishes in Le Roy (the other one being St. Joseph's Church). At that point, it was renamed "Holy Family School."

Note: Unless otherwise specified, all of the following were published in the Batavia Daily News and obtained courtesy of the Le Roy Historical Society:

Photo published in the Holy Family School Newsletter

Over the years, Holy Family slowly made the transition from a parochial school to a regional school. Hansen said that by the time it closed, "only 40 percent of the students were from Le Roy, with remaining students coming from Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties."

Regional schools have different requirements than parochial schools, including, according to Hansen, a "suggested class size (of) 20-25 students per grade level."

Take that, the fact that the school was staffed by state certified teachers instead of religious sisters receiving a modest stipend (which kept tuition costs low), and the population decrease in our area, and you get a good idea of the reason for Holy Family School's closure.

For more information on Holy Family School's history, please see the timeline at the bottom of this story.

Here are some pictures of the school through the years, courtesy of Sue Bobo and the Le Roy Historical Society:

Graduating class of 1957

Graduating class of 1965

Graduating class of 1978

Thank you to the interviewees, Sue Bobo and the Le Roy Historical Society for the information and pictures.

Timeline: Holy Family School:

  • 1849 -- Rev. Edward Dillon founds St. Peter's Catholic Church in Le Roy.
  • 1852 -- Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, Rev. Dillon's successor as pastor, begins collecting funds to enlarge parish in response to rapid membership growth.
  • 1857 -- Temporary parish school established by Rev. James McGlew in the church basement.        
  • July 1889 -- Work is begun on new school behind St. Peter's Church (now called "the annex").
  • Sept. 2, 1889 -- St. Peter's School opens, with the Sisters of Mercy recruited to teach.
  • Early 1900s -- St. Peter's School has enrollment of 260 students.
  • Feb. 14, 1907 -- Most Rev. Charles H. Colton, bishop of Buffalo, administers Sacrament of Confirmation in Le Roy; large number of Italian-American residents ask for their own "National" (or ethnic) parish.
  • Feb. 16, 1907 -- Bishop Colton sends Rev. Joseph A. Gambino to establish St. Joseph's Church.
  • 1913 -- Significant improvements to St. Peter's Church and School.
  • 1955 -- St. Joseph's and St. Peter's unite to build a new school building to serve all Catholic children in Le Roy. Upon completion, St. Peter's School is renamed Holy Family School.
  • Sept. 23, 1956 -- Holy Family School is officially dedicated by Most Rev. Leo R. Smith, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo.
  • 1965 -- Gymnasium is built in the school.
  • 1989 -- Holy Family School is run mostly by laypeople rather than nuns.
  • 1993 -- Barbara McVean becomes the first layperson to serve as principal of Holy Family School.
  • 1990s -- 2000s -- Holy Family School begins to serve students from other communities as neighboring Catholic schools close.  Children from elsewhere in Genesee County as well as from Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties attend the school.
  • 2008 -- St. Joseph's and St. Peter's merge as Our Lady of Mercy Parish.
  • 2009 -- 2010 -- Under diocesan plan, Holy Family School transitions from parochial to regional school.
  • 2011 -- Parents establish the Holy Family School Finance/Fund Raising Committee to try saving the school from closure.
  • 2012 -- Holy Family School closes in spite of valiant student, parent and teacher efforts.
  • June 8, 2012 -- The Holy Family School Choir performs for the last time in public at the Le Roy Bicentennial Celebration; receives standing ovation.

Previous coverage of Holy Family School:

Mancuso's hosts Holy Family School, of Le Roy, for Catholic Schools Week

Pictures: Holy Family and St. Joe's kids

Students at Holy Family learning and having fun with art

Clor's chicken BBQ to benefit last graduating class of Le Roy's Holy Family School

By Billie Owens

A chicken BBQ to benefit the last graduating class of eighth-graders from Holy Family School (Class of 2012) in Le Roy will be held at Clor's Meat Market in Batavia on Sunday, June 24.

The dinner costs $9 and includes: barbecued chickem, salt potatoes and cole slaw. It will be available from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. (or 'til sold out). Clor's is located at 4169 W. Main St. Road.

Holy Family School closes at the end of this academic year.

Event Date and Time

Holy Family falls short of enrollment goals needed to keep school open

By Howard B. Owens

A community drive to try and save Holy Family School in Le Roy has apparently come up short of its goal.

Today, officials released a letter to parents announcing the school's closure.

In November 2011, a plan to merge Holy Family with St. Joe's was announced, but community outcry led diocese officials to give local families a chance to raise enough money and enroll enough new students to keep the doors open.

The diocese agreed to keep Holy Family operational for the 2011-12 school year, giving parents an opportunity to keep the doors open.

The community had some early success in its efforts, but apparently could not meet the final goals.

Below is the letter sent to parents:

Dear Parents,

It is out of deep respect for each of you that we regrettably send this letter in order that you hear this announcement from us.

As you already know, we fell short of the benchmarks that were given to us by the Diocese. It is very important for everyone to understand that both benchmarks were joined together. The first benchmark set was the enrollment and that benchmark gave the dollar amount that was needed so that we could go forward without a deficit. With the present number we have registered for next year and the funds collected we would begin the year with a deficit in excess of $38,000.00. This does not take into account that so many families also request financial/tuition aid. Based on the amount of aid given last year and the amount of tuition money uncollected, our deficit would soar to $58,000.00.

Our School Board met last evening with Steve Timmel who is from the Diocese of Buffalo and a member of the Corporate Board of the School. He informed us that the Diocese could not approve a budget that not only had so great a deficit but also noted the fact that the school is also in debt this year to Our Lady of Mercy Parish for over $100,000.00. As a Corporate Board, they have to exercise fiduciary responsibility for the Diocese, the parishes, and the schools and this Board voted that in conscience they could not let us go forward with so great a deficit and so low an enrollment.

We have many more details to share with you and we both will be taking time to meet with all of you to explain how we go forward and transition – especially with the hope that your children continue in Catholic education at St. Joseph’s School in the Fall. We both pledge our cooperation and full help in seeing this happen. But for now, we wanted to immediately send a letter to you so that you heard this news from us and not the news media or another person.

We understand how very difficult this news is for everyone and we are most grateful to each and every one of you who have prayed and worked so hard to help the school, especially to those of you who contributed countless hours of your time and talent to attend meetings, promote the school, and seek donations.

We will be in touch with you during the weeks ahead concerning our transition program and the help that we will extend to all of our families.

Fr. Michael Rock, O. de M.
Canonical Pastor 

Kevin Robertson

UPDATE: A press release from the Diocese:

Despite a valiant effort by the local leadership and the surrounding community, Holy Family School in Le Roy will close at the end of the month.

The school was not able to meet benchmarks that were agreed on by the Diocese of Buffalo, the Holy Family Board of Trustees and local leadership last December. Responding to the community, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec agreed to give the community time to rally around the school in an effort to keep it open.

The local leadership established benchmarks. The school needed to register 120 K-8 students and raise $125,000 by the June 1 deadline. To date, 100 students are registered and $110,000 has been raised. The school is currently operating with a significant subsidy from the diocese as well as significant additional support from Our Lady of Mercy Parish.

“The Holy Family community exhibited resounding energy and commitment to keep the school open, viable and sustainable,” said Dr. Rosemary Henry, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese, "but only enrolled 93 students for next year, falling short of the 120 K-8 benchmark. Such low enrollment and serious financial challenges may affect the educational environment for students, compromise the ability to meet payroll for teachers and impact the future viability of the school. We are all grateful for the energy, dedication and effort by the Le Roy community and for the leadership and ministry by Father Michael Rock, canonical administrator, and Kevin Robertson, principal.

“We are saddened to see this school close after many years of a rich tradition of excellence but we know that the legacy of the school will live on through its current students and alumni.”

Current PreK (4)-7 students enrolled at Holy Family School will receive a one-time $500 tuition credit from the diocese that can be applied to any Catholic elementary school in the Diocese of Buffalo for the 2012-13 school year.

In addition, funds have been set aside to operate a bus from LeRoy to St. Joseph School in Batavia, which will welcome Holy Family students.

Founded in 1889, Holy Family School has a current K-8 enrollment of 100 students. This marks a decline of 39 percent, or 63 students, in total enrollment since 2003. The school has 14 full- and part-time employees. The diocesan departments of Catholic Schools and Human Resources will work with faculty members to assist them with possible placement in other Catholic schools.

Diocese congratulates Holy Family as school surpasses first benchmark to keep school open

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Following the announcement that Holy Family School in Le Roy had exceeded the first of three benchmarks required to keep the school open, Dr. Rosemary Henry, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Buffalo, issued this statement:

“I wish to congratulate the entire Holy Family School community for responding to last November’s call to action. By meeting their first goal, they have shown a commitment to sustaining and growing Catholic education in Genesee County.

“But much work remains to be done in order for Holy Family School to remain open beyond June. In the coming weeks, we need to see greater engagement on the part of supporters of Catholic education to ensure each individual benchmark is met,” Dr. Henry said.

As of March 2, the school had registered 70 students for the 2012-13 school year and raised $47,000, surpassing the March 1 benchmark of 40 paid registrants and $40,000 raised.

After a series of meetings last year, it appeared that Holy Family School would merge with St. Joseph School in Batavia, but upon hearing from members of the Holy Family community and local leadership, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, agreed to give the community time to rally around the school in an effort to keep it open.

Two additional benchmarks must now be met:

April 15, 2012: a total of 80 paid registrants with nonrefundable deposits and an additional $40,000 on deposit. June 1, 2012:  a total of 120 paid registrants with nonrefundable deposits and an additional $45,000 on deposit.

According to a plan agreed upon and presented to the Holy Family School leadership and the local community, as well as a letter sent by Father Michael Rock, OdeM, canonical administrator of the school, to the Holy Family community on Dec. 2, 2011, meeting the benchmarks will allow Holy Family School to remain open.

“Parishioners, school supporters and alumni are encouraged to continue this impressive momentum to ensure Catholic elementary education is maintained in Le Roy,” Dr. Henry said.

Holy Family School's Annual Ten Trip Dinner Raffle

By Kelly Hansen

On St. Patrick's Day - Saturday, March 17, 2012 Holy Family School in Le Roy will host their annual Ten Trip Dinner Raffle. $20 ticket includes 10 chances to win a trip, plus Corn Beef, Ham, Cabbage & Potatoes, Dessert, Soda, Beer & Wine. There will be Irish music all night long and Irish dancers to help us celebrate St. Patrick's Day! There will also be Pull-Tabs, 50/50 raffles, basket raffles and the famous HFS lottery ticket raffle!

Event Date and Time

Holy Family School in Le Roy launches new website today, holds open house Thursday

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Holy Family School in LeRoy is busy this week with activities held in conjunction with Catholic Schools Week. Check out the launch of our new and more informative website,, Monday, Jan. 30 (where current and prospective families can now also enroll their children online).

HFS wants the community to know we are not only open — we are thriving! The school ranked highest in the area for Catholic grade schools by Business First and many former students have gone on to great academic, athletic, and professional success.

Many prospective families are not aware of how many surrounding areas our students come
from (Brockport, Pavilion, Batavia, Caledonia, York, Byron-Bergen and Warsaw, in addition to Le Roy), and that our tuition package is the most affordable in our area.

Families are always welcome to schedule a personal tour or shadow day by calling 768-7390.

An Open House and Registration Night is scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 2.

Current families as well as prospective families are encouraged to attend this event. There will be a brief presentation made by Principal Kevin Robertson, followed by tours of the two buildings on campus, meet-and-greets with teachers, and an informal opportunity to learn more from current parents about student activities, parent activities, tuition, transportation and financial aid.

Holy Family School will be open for 2012-13 school year

By Howard B. Owens

Submitted by a reader:

In the basement of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Le Roy, parents and committee members heard the words everyone was praying for, “Holy Family will remain open for the 2012-2013 school year.” This announcement came  from the Diocese of Buffalo after word that the merger proposed with St. Joseph’s in Batavia had been rejected.

This good news comes with a catch though -- all benchmark goals previously set by the diocese still need to be reached.

“Every 10 students cost the school around $20,000,” Fr. Rock said, “every enrolled student lessens the financial burden of the school and, therefore, the parents.”

Benchmark goals include enrolling 120 students and raising $120,000 by June 2012. Enrollment goals include re-enrolling the 90 current K-7 students so parents are encouraged to make their commitment sooner than later.

An Enrollment and Marketing Committee has been established by a group of parents, professionals and supporters of HFS who plan to kick off the enrollment campaign this January.

A Finance Committee has also been created to manage donations and assist with tuition and financial aid.

“We need the donations and the tuition to run the school, but it is important for parents to know no student is turned away for the inability to pay,” said Dane Sprague, co-chair of the Finance Committee. "There is always a way and we will find it."

Sprague also reminded supporters to encourage donations of all sizes as no donation is too small. The school is launching a new website which will be live on the first day of Catholic Schools Week in January.

It is expected to have many more user-friendly features including the ability to make a quick and secure donation online. Until then, Holy Family School is asking those willing to donate to send gifts to HFS with attention to Denise Spadaccia, the school’s bookkeeper.

“Now is the time to donate and enroll, with confidence,” said Lindsay Warner, 1995 alumni and committee volunteer. "Holy Family School has been serving the Le Roy community and surrounding areas since 1889 and has proven tonight that she will continue to do so."

Le Roy teacher to receive WNY 'Making a Difference' award

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

First as a student and now as a faculty member, Patty Page has been making a difference in the lives of Holy Family School students in Le Roy for the past 23 years. A 1965 graduate of the school located in eastern Genesee County, Page will receive the “Sister Lucille Socciarelli - Father John Sturm Making a Difference Award” on Jan. 26 at the annual dinner that raises funds for needs-based tuition assistance for students attending Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.

In his letter of nomination, Holy Family School Principal Kevin Robertson wrote, “Patty is a very spiritual person and shares her great sense of responsibility with her students and coworkers every day. Patty’s second-graders leave her classroom at the end of each school year with knowledge of Jesus, His many teachings, the saints and the essential values of being a caring and honest person.”

Father Michael Rock, OdeM, canonical administrator of the school, said that for Page, teaching is a true vocation and call to ministry.

“In everything she does, she is not only an exceptional professional but she has the compassion and gentleness of a true Christian,” Rock said.

The award that Page will receive at the “Making a Difference Dinner – A Celebration of Catholic Schools,” was originated in 2000 by the late Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The South Buffalo native was inspired by two religious mentors, Sister Lucille Socciarelli, RSM, who taught him at St. Bonaventure School in West Seneca, and Father John Sturm, SJ, dean of discipline at Canisius High School in Buffalo.

Following Russert’s death in 2008, the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo decided to continue the award on Russert’s behalf.  Since the 2009 dinner, Russert’s son, Luke, has introduced the honoree via videotape from the NBC News set in Washington, D.C. The practice will continue at next month’s dinner.

Lead sponsors of the dinner are the William E. & Ann L. Swan Foundation and Restonic – Tom and Jean Comer. Platinum sponsors are the Mazurkiewicz Family and Mrs. Arthur J. Schaefer, Lawley, John and Betsy Sullivan, and Richard and Karen Penfold.

Tribute sponsors are KeyBank, Jake and Katie Schneider, Steve and Kellie Ulrich, M&T Bank, Pratt Collard Advisory Partners, LLC, and The Kenneth L. & Katherine G. Koessler Foundation, Canisius High School, Dietrich Law Firm, Personal Touch Food Service, Phillips Lytle, Franchise Technologies, Catholic Health, St. Mark Parish and School, and Dave and Mary Pietrowski.

For sponsorship and ticket information, contact Susan Burns, coordinator of Special Events, at 716-847-8373 or [email protected].

Community given time to increase enrollment, funds to keep Holy Family School open

By Howard B. Owens

From Kevin Keenen, director of communications, Catholic Diocese of Buffalo:

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, has delayed any decision until next March. He wants the local community to come together and see if they can increase enrollment and raise the necessary funds to keep HFS open for the long term. This will require significant time, effort, increased enrollment and financial sponsorship by the Le Roy community and surrounding areas. Father Michael Rock, canonical administrator of the school, has called a meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29 in the Holy Family School gymnasium to rally the community to action.

While a final decision will not be made until March 1, 2012, we must continue to plan for the possible merger of the two schools. The bishop will not make a final decision until the local community has acted on this opportunity.

Make no mistake about it: this is a clarion call for the HFS community to develop a realistic plan that will not only increase enrollment, but also place the school on solid financial footing for many years to come.

It is now up to the community to take action to make significant, long-term financial commitments to build Holy Family School into a stable, growing Catholic elementary school. We pray that their efforts will succeed and the end result with be even greater Catholic identity in the classroom, stronger academic programs and exciting new opportunities in the years to come for Catholic elementary school students in Le Roy, Genesee County and beyond.

St. Joe's, Holy Family schools notify parents of merger

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee County's two Catholic elementary schools are apparently planning a merger, according to a letter sent home to parents.

The letter obtained by The Batavian was sent to parents of children at St. Joe's in Batavia and Holy Family in Le Roy. It states:

Local leadership has agreed that the schools will reconfigure next September for the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. Following a thorough analysis of several reconfigurations, the model emerging as one of the favorites: Pre-K to 8 and an after-school programs at the current St. Joseph School site; Pre-K and an after-school program at current Holy Family site.

The letter states that a name has not yet been selected for the reconfigured school.

The letter is signed by Kevin Robertson, principal of Holy Family, and Karen Green, principal of St. Joseph School.

The reason for the merger, according to the letter, is driven a lot by the declining elementary school population in Genesee County.

The number dropped by 7 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the letter.

"We need to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of all of our parishioners," the letter says. "That requires a more equitable distribution of parish income."

Discussions among local leaders began in the early fall, according to the letter, which invites parents to provide feedback on various options for curricula and programs in the reconfigured school.

Taste of New York expected to be another big hit

By Brittany Baker

If the March 26 Taste of New York is anything like the previous Brew Fest, it should be certainly be a fun time.

“Last year there were people who were having so much fun they didn’t want to leave,” Sue Bobo said.

As part of the planning committee, she expects the night to be as popular as the first wine, beer and local food sampling fundraiser in 2010.

After the Brew Fest provided about 250 guests with an enjoyable evening of mingling with friends and tastings from a few local hot spots, planners at Holy Family School are excited to bring the event back.

“We hope for more this year, a lot of people were really excited to get their tickets," Bobo said. "If they came last year, they’re happy to do it again but there’s a lot of people who heard how much fun it was and would like to give it a try this year."

Tickets cost $20 each or $15 for designated drivers. With the admission ticket, beverage tickets are given to sample wine and beer. Based on sobriety, more beverage tickets will be available for purchase.

The night will start with tasting from 7-10 p.m. and there will be entertainment from 8-11 p.m. by the Le Royan band called Exit 47. Raffles and door prizes will be given throughout the evening.

All funds raised will go to support Holy Family School.

Arna Tygart helped plan the event last year because she has two children enrolled at Holy Family. She spoke highly of the staff at the small school.

“Everyone goes above and beyond for the students,” she said. “The school is wonderful. The principal, secretaries and teachers are all so welcoming. You could go in and eat lunch with your child and celebrate birthday parties and you feel like you’re walking in to family.”

Most businesses which participated will be returning because they liked being able to meet and greet local customers.

"It was a huge success," Tygart said. "We had so many good responses and so much great feedback. Someone even said it could be the best kept secret in Genesee County!"

Pictures: Holy Family and St. Joe's kids

By Daniel Crofts

As promised last week (see Friday's article, "Mancuso's hosts Holy Family School, of Le Roy, for Catholic Schools Week"), here are some photos of staff and students from Holy Family and St. Joseph schools celebrating Catholic Schools Week.

Our site has been experiencing some technical difficulties, otherwise they would have been posted sooner.

Holy Family at Mancuso Bowling Center:

The kids have just finished Mass at Notre Dame and are ready to hit the lanes!

Principal Kevin Robertson (aka "Mr. Rob") with Sister Bridget.

Amy Drakes, physical education teacher and chief organizer of this event.

"Representatives" from across the grade span. They are, left to right in the back, Ariba (fifth grade), Chris (eighth grade),  Drakes and Collin (fifth grade); left to right in the front, Annarose (kindergarten), Sam (third grade) and Nathaniel (first grade).

St. Joe's kids at the YMCA -- games and workouts:


Pictured fifth-grade teacher Todd Bowman, who did push-ups with some of his students.

Mancuso's hosts Holy Family School, of Le Roy, for Catholic Schools Week

By Daniel Crofts

Holy Family School of Le Roy celebrated Catholic Schools Week with a trip to Mancuso Bowling Center this week, following a Mass at Notre Dame High School.

Here is some footage of the students getting their games on -- and thank you to Lorie Longhany, who teaches art at the school, for indirectly providing the title of part four:

Catholic Schools Week -- which has been observed annually for many years (at least since 1889 at Holy Family) -- was actually last week, but the bowling outing and the Mass at Notre Dame were rescheduled due to bad weather. Pictures of the Holy Family crew at Mancuso's will be posted soon, along with photos of St. Joe's kids celebrating at the YMCA.

The purpose of Catholic Schools Week, according to Holy Family Principal Kevin Robertson (affectionately known as "Mr. Rob" to the students), is to give kids and staff the chance to celebrate their Catholic identity "in a way they don't get to the rest of the school year."

Kids, teachers and parents in Catholic education celebrate this annual, weeklong tradition with fun events at the schools and out in the community.

"A lot of these activities are geared toward teamwork," Robertson said. "It gives the kids a chance to work together and just have fun."

This is the third year in a row Mancuso's has welcomed Holy Family students in for Catholic Schools Week, according to physical education teacher Amy Drakes.

Drakes was in charge of coordinating this event, which she sees as a valuable opportunity to mix the different grade levels so that they can work together. She feels it's a great way to showcase the tight-knit bond between students for the community.

"The great thing about our school is that everyone knows each other," Drakes said. "Having all the (elementary and middle school) grades together is nice, too. You see a different side of the seventh- and eighth-graders when they're working with the little kids."

"There's a great sense of family and community (in the Catholic school setting)," Robertson said. "The kids get a strong foundation for morals and values, and they're conscious of the need to treat others with respect, and to be fair and productive."

Though most Holy Family students are Catholic, the school welcomes and includes students who are not Catholic as well.

"We have non-Catholic students, and we include them in everything we do," Robertson said, "but we also respect their beliefs. They can participate in the activities we have outside of school if they choose to do so -- but if they choose not to, that's understandable."

Education at Holy Family, as at other Catholic schools, goes beyond the classroom. Recently, the kids worked on fundraising efforts for Catholic Appeal's Week (see Feb. 7 announcement). Robertson said they will continue to have many activities through Catholic Appeal's Week, which is April 10 through 17.

Visit the Holy Family School website for more information.


St. Joseph School students enjoy the "bouncy house" at the YMCA:

Students at Holy Family learning and having fun with art

By Howard B. Owens

Kevin Robertson, principal at Holy Family School, Le Roy, submitted this item about Lorie Longhany's art classes at the school.

Since returning from Christmas break, there has been a lot of bustling activity in Mrs. Longhany's Art Room at Holy Family School.

Kindergarten has been learning about texture and tone, and have created portraits of cookie monster.

Others are exploring units on penguins with warm/cool projects -- with crayons for first grade, collages in second grade -- where glaciers and icebergs are incorporated in South Pole landscapes. Third-graders are currently working on papier-mache penguins from recycled juice bottles, a favorite of Holy Family students!

Fourth-graders are creating Native American symbols and shields, fifth-graders are designing a 3-D meal from salt clay. Meanwhile, sixth-graders are venturing back to Ancient Egypt and creating scareb amulets and gold scratch-art portraits of King Tut using hieroglyphics.

Seventh-graders are working on tempera painting in pop-art style using tinting techniques. Eighth-graders are exploring the gold-guilded work of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt with portrait scratch-art.

Visual Arts are an important experience at HFS where an emphasis is put on cross-curriculum as well as art fundamentals, which also include faith-based projects centered around the yearly Catholic calendar. Pictured above with art teacher Longhany are Holy Family's Artists of the Week.

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