Transition from All Saints Regional to St. Mary Academy Going Forward

Feb 27, 2019

It’s no secret that Superstorm Sandy had a significant effect on Southern Ocean County. Many homes were damaged beyond reasonable repair and some to this day remain vacant, and many families were displaced.

Not surprising, All Saints Regional Catholic School took a hit as well.

“Sandy definitely had an effect on the school and we never really recovered from it,” said Msgr. Ken Tuzeneu, overseeing pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, which in July will assume complete control of the school as it becomes St. Mary Academy. “At one time, the school at 350 students, but it’s been steadily declining for years, and particularly since Sandy.”

With less than 200 students enrolled this year, Tuzuneu and the school’s board of advisors sought to devise a plan not just to keep the school afloat but to get it back on a path of thriving as the 2019-20 school year nears. The first step was to change the structure from a diocesan regional school to a parish school.

“In theory, the regional school is a good model,” Tuzeneu said. “In practice, it’s not necessarily the best because it kind of leaves the principal on her own to do a lot of things, and it’s more difficult to get some things addressed quickly.

“With a parish school, the principal can go directly to the overseeing pastor for more things, and it’s more direct and immediate in terms of response to those needs. We won’t have to wait for the Diocese of Trenton to get involved and provide guidance.”

While the crux of the change is more about streamlining operations and simplifying the authoritative command of the school, St. Mary Academy will remain largely unchanged from what it is as All Saints Regional. Through the transition, most of the staff is expected to remain in place, tuition is not changing, and the curriculum will not be altered in any significant way, Tuzeneu said.

“We want to maintain as much stability as possible through this transition,” he said. “A lot academically will stay the same. We’re exploring more about what it means what an ‘academy’ might do compared to a regular school, and with that we may at some point add courses, such as languages. But for now, we want to get through the transition and then we’ll put more focus on what we can do to take things to the next level.”

Of course, the “next level” requires increased enrollment because, without it, St. Mary Academy will struggle to remain open.

“The school is on the edge of operating comfortably within budget, and most of that relies on enrollment,” Tuzeneu said. “Each of the five sending parishes provides funding for the school and will continue to do so. But tuition from enrollment is the largest financial factor. You can’t survive for too long with an enrollment under 200.”

Tuzeneu said the immediate goal for next year is to get the enrollment back over the 200 mark and then work on building that number, primarily through a stronger push on getting the word out not just within Manahawkin and Barnegat, but within the communities served by the other four sending parishes – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Whiting, St. Francis of Assisi in Long Beach Township, St. Pius X in Lacey and St. Theresa in Little Egg Harbor.

“Our main focal points, once the transition is finished, will be to increase enrollment, have a bigger marketing reach and increase our fundraising,” he said. “Our marketing of the school is our best-kept secret. It’s been a great school for many years, but most people don’t know it exists. That’s something we have to change.”

Tuzeneu explained that because the school is changing its structure from regional school to parish school, it was necessary to open up the principal position for new applicants, but Kathleen Blazewicz, who’s been the school’s principal for years, is among those who will be considered for the role as academy administrator.

On Monday, April 8, Tuzeneu expects to have a community meeting to provide further updates on the transition.

“We’re hoping to announce our principal at that meeting, in addition to results of surveys that went out at our meeting in January soliciting for a mascot, school colors and some other things,” he said. “At that point, we’ll hopefully have a new logo for the school and a better understanding of how we’re going to proceed as St. Mary Academy.

“Collectively, we believed that some things needed to be changed so that our school can improve and thrive in the future. And if we didn’t believe these changes were right, we wouldn’t have done them. So far, the feedback has been mostly positive, so I’m excited about it.”

— David Biggy

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