May 26, 2009

San Juan Diego Middle School to close

San Juan Diego Middle School made this announcement Tuesday:
San Juan Diego Middle School will finish its sixth school year, graduate its fourth class of eighth-graders, then prepare to close in June.

A public gathering to close the school is planned for 5 p.m., June 14 at 1101 Douglas Ave. All past and present students, staff, families, mentors, volunteers, supporters and friends of the school are invited. Details will be announced at a later date.

The school, which opened in 2003 to offer a Catholic and unique education to children living in poverty, has depended upon charitable dollars for its existence. In the present economic situation, it is not possible to continue, the Board of Directors has decided.

“This is a very sad time for us. We tried everything we could to make San Juan Diego Middle School a lasting educational institution in this community,” said John Raymond, Board President.

“We are thankful for all of the people who have made this school possible in our short history, and we hope that they will continue to support us as we must still raise enough money to pay our staff and meet our financial obligations for this year. This is our first priority,” he said.

The school had been planning for one of its biggest fundraisers at Festival Hall on June 5. That event has been canceled, due to this decision. But school officials urge all San Juan Diego supporters to continue their pledges and commitments of financial support to help the school close in a responsible manner.

“We have a marvelous group of teachers, administrators and support staff who have made this mission possible and we want to make certain we can complete our year able to reward them for the work they have achieved and performed according to their contracts,” he said. “To do that, we will continue to raise money to pay our staff, our vendors and our creditors to meet our obligations. We hope the community will support us in that effort.”

The school has roughly 70 students in fifth through eighth grades. San Juan Diego staff will assist parents in placing their students in new schools for next year.

There is a way for the public to help in this endeavor, too. San Juan Diego was created to offer children from low-income households an opportunity to attend a Catholic school they could not otherwise afford. Some families will wish to place their child in a local faith-based school but will need tuition assistance. San Juan Diego Middle School officials urge local churches to help provide assistance for families who wish to continue their children’s faith-based education and will help coordinate a match among donors who wish to sponsor a student at another faith-based school.

The school also supports 55 graduates who attend all of Racine’s high schools. San Juan Diego will be working to connect those students with all possible resources to ensure their success.

School officials want to thank all of the community volunteer mentors who have been helping the middle and high school students to succeed. Officials encourage mentors to continue their support of their students as best they can during this difficult transition.

San Juan Diego Middle School has been a community school from the start and a public witness that Racine people desire educational change. Over six years, more than 1,600 individuals, funding organizations, businesses and civic groups have contributed roughly $4.5 million to support the school.

About half of the school’s funding has come from granting organizations and nearly half from individual contributions. Everyone has been hard hit by the recent economic situation. Granting organizations around the country have lost substantial investments, which has curtailed their ability to fund nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofit contributors are older donors who have relied on their savings and investments to make charitable contributions. They, too, have lost significant money in this economy. With this reality and the lack of a solid monetary foundation on which to rely, school officials felt the most prudent decision is to close after this year.

Laura Sumner Coon, executive director, said the school closing should act as an alarm for the Racine community. “To have garnered so much support in such little time for an alternative mode of faith-based education and then to have to close should wake us up. For too long, children in poverty have been sliding into educational duress and hopelessness while we have not acted quickly enough to reorganize our public schools into successful learning institutions and opened the door of private, faith-based schools for people without the means to pay for such education.”

“It is my hope Racine learns from this experience and that people demand better education for the poor, push our legislators to expand the parental choice voucher program throughout the state and begin opening doors to educational opportunity for the most vulnerable children among us.”

The eighth grade class will graduate on June 9. The last day of school will be June 10. A public gathering to celebrate San Juan Diego accomplishments, thank all of the school’s donors and volunteers, and properly send students into the future will be at 5 p.m., June 14 at the school.


  1. Jam them back into Winslow5/27/2009 7:56 AM

    I expect no comment from Senator Lehman on this unfortunate situation because in his mind this wonderful place doesn't exist.

  2. I bet they could use 12k per student like RUSD gets. What a shame our representatives ignore funding quality schools because they are union loyal. We need to force the issue of school vouchers. The virtual school fight made the dems look like complete idiots. Watch the hearings on Wisconsin eye. It is hilarious.

  3. This sucks.

  4. concrete katie5/27/2009 1:58 PM

    this is a loss for diversity and individuality

  5. Poor people should be forced to attend public schools, right?

  6. While I appreciate the efforts of these volunteers, teachers, etc. in being willing to try something different, it doesn't help the students once they get to high school. I have had several of these students in class in high school and they haven't even come close to succeeding - rarely turning in homework and having poor attendance. There needs to be more follow-up down the line to see what happens to these kids once they leave.