Tonawanda News

February 13, 2014

St. Francis school appeal handed up

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C. has received parishioners’ Canon Law appeal asking for the reversal of Bishop Richard Malone’s decision to close St. Francis school, attorney Mark Saltarelli said Wednesday. 

The appeal was sent in last week, after Malone rejected a petition that requested him to reconsider the closure of the school — the only Catholic elementary institution in the Twin Cities. 

In January, Malone announced the school and nine others would close as part of a diocese-wide reorganization and downsizing plan. Teachers, students and parishioners have been fighting the decision, and have cited the school’s $500,000 endowment and service to both Niagara County and Erie County students. 

Although other Catholic schools will remain open in the Town of Tonawanda, both the City of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda do not bus out of their districts, meaning city parents will have to find other means of transportation. Tuition at many of the other Catholic elementary schools, including St. John’s and St. Christopher’s in the town, is also higher than the cost at St. Francis. 

It is the only school set for closure that has increased its enrollment since 2003.

Two state senators, George Maziarz and Mark Grisanti, said Wednesday that they wrote a joint letter to Carlo Maria Vigano, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, in support of the school. 

“We hope that you will give this matter your utmost attention,” they wrote. “St. Francis of Assisi School deserves to remain open for many reasons, not the least of which are increased enrollment, a robust endowment, relatively low tuition costs, unique service to a key geographic area, and widespread community and family support.”

The councils of North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda have passed resolutions supporting the effort, and a number of other politicians — including Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, state Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis — have also sent letters in support of the school.