PORTLAND — Bishop Richard Malone said Tuesday that his initial decision to close the Cathedral School was the right one.

Malone considered parents’ new funding proposal for the parochial school for about a week, but said the plan offers no guarantee that the school could reverse its financial losses.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced in April that the school would close, citing a $115,000 deficit and a $330,000 debt to the Cathedral Parish for past losses.

Parents, who laud the school’s diverse student body and faith-based education, said the decision saddened them but they don’t plan any other efforts to keep Cathedral open beyond its last day of classes, June 15.

“The bishop is the head of the church and his decision is final, so at this point I really don’t think we have any other options,” said Heidi Czerkes, who has a son in first grade at the school and was a leader of the effort to keep Cathedral open.

Parents had hope after being contacted by a representative of an anonymous donor who offered $400,000, which would have erased most of the school’s losses and debt. The representative met last week with Malone and the parents, Czerkes said, but did not say why the donor was willing to give such a large sum.

At the meeting’s end, Malone asked for assurances that the money would be forthcoming from the donor, said Sue Bernard, a spokeswoman for the diocese. The representative said he’d get back to the bishop.

A Friday deadline for a decision, requested by parents, was extended twice. The representative never contacted the diocese or the parents’ group with any assurances, Bernard and Czerkes said.

In a statement released Tuesday, Malone said his decision was based on the lack of a guarantee that the donor’s money would be provided or any assurance that a new funding model proposed by the parents’ group would work.

Czerkes said the parents were proposing a short-term fix for the school’s finances, using the donor’s money, about $80,000 more in unsolicited offers of aid and cost-cutting at the school.

She said the longer-term plan was a five-year approach to stabilize the school’s finances, using models developed by other dioceses around the country.

After announcing the closure in April, Bernard said, the diocese offered parents meetings in May with representatives of another parochial school in Portland and one in South Portland, and a meeting with public school officials, so parents could plan where to send their children next year.

Czerkes said one of the parochial schools, St. Brigid’s in Portland, has a waiting list. The other, Holy Cross in South Portland, has a limited number of spaces.

Czerkes said she has decided to home-school her son.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]