Helen, MD — Mother Catherine Spalding School will open its doors July 1, 2015 for the 2015/2016 school year with a new name, likely to be Mother Catherine Spalding Academy. Through consultation with the Archdiocese of Washington and with new direction, the community is establishing a nonprofit independent school under their own management, and will have authority over all financial and operational responsibilities. The new independent school will operate in the building that has been home to the Archdiocesan Catholic school for fifty years.

According to a Jan. 16 letter from Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, the
Archdiocese will not be financially or operationally involved in the new school, although the letter noted that the Cardinal has directed the Catholic Schools Office and other archdiocesan offices to begin work on the terms of the lease of the existing building to “show the Archdiocese’s support for such a new, independent school proposed to be founded and operated by parents.”

The new path for the school was forged by a group of parents and community members under the name “Friends of Mother Catherine Spalding School Society.” Members of the group have been in discussions with and met with the Cardinal and Catholic Schools Office officials to demonstrate the viability of a private school located in the northern part of the county. Those conversations and watershed event meeting were a culmination of many months of work. The group’s initial goal was to keep the school open under the operational management of the Archdiocese, but when it became clear there may be a more viable option, the group’s direction changed to study the option of opening a new, independent school, and the group determined such a venture would be possible.

Tuition assistance from several sources, including accrued funds from an endowment to the school and existing aid from the Archdiocese, will remain available. In addition, new sources of tuition assistance are being investigated, such as an “adopt­a­child” program for people who wish to sponsor the Catholic education of a child. Other fundraisers, including the school’s popular Saturday Night Bingo and a campaign to sell personalized bricks to build a memorial, already exceeded their projected revenue for this school year.

Organizers, teachers and parents alike believe this is the fresh start the school needs. In an email to the community, parent and “Friends” society member Betsy Farrell wrote, “We all pray for certain things and sometimes we feel like our prayers go unanswered, but maybe this is how God has answered our prayers ­­ by giving us this incredible new opportunity.” 

The independent option opens many opportunities that parents believe will make this school a model for affordable private education in southern Maryland. This model of partnering with the Archdiocese will allow for stronger collaboration with the stakeholders in the community and will allow for strong measures to support its growth.

The group is working toward signing a formal agreement with the Archdiocese wherein the school’s Mission, Religious Formation and Religious Curriculum would be accountable to and accredited by the Archdiocese but the operations and finances would be owned and operated by the principal and board of trustees.

While work needs to be done to get the school ready to open its doors, the main push for the next several years will be enrollment. Organizers believe a sustained effort to increase enrollment through aggressive showcasing of the school’s established attributes and increased tuition assistance will keep the school on solid footing.