In his Bishop’s Corner in SGG’s May 3 Sunday bulletin, Dannie Dolan stated that this year’s SGG school enrollment was “more than any in the history of our little school” -- obviously intending to give the impression that the school was doing “better than ever” – and to refute the bad press that it has been getting. Dannie’s comment, however, brings to mind one of Mark Twain’s more memorable quotes: “There are lies, there are damned lies -- and then there are statistics.”
Statistically, Dannie’s comment was correct. The enrollment there is at the highest it has ever been; and since last year, it has grown by 25% or so. But what Dannie doesn’t mention is that this 25% increase is the result of one family (with six or seven kids) who recently joined up at SGG. This information came our way by virtue of an e-mail that Pistrina Liturgica received recently from one of its readers (someone obviously intimately familiar with what’s going on at SGG). The e-mail was reprinted by Pistrina in the comments section of one of its articles, and we have excerpted the following from it:
The swell in enrollment from last year to this year is due to the coming of one new family with 6 or 7 kids. Don't know the story behind it, and who knows what may become of them after the bloom is off the rose. I have a feeling this is another single parent situation or something, I could be wrong but I have strong doubts they pay any significant tuition.
The e-mail then went on to add:
Eight of the children belong to two families, let's call them the X family and the Y family. Now Mrs. X and Mrs. Y are sisters, and their parents are diehard Gerties of 30 years or more. Mrs X and Mrs Y are the youngest in their family, the older ones attend Immaculate Conception and send their kids there. Not that it's much better but it seems to at least be a real school. Mrs X and Mrs Y are probably the only families that pay tuition. Two of the children are kindergarten age. Interestingly, there would be one more but he was pulled OUT two years ago to go to a real (public) school with a music program as the boy is very talented. So you see one of 'our young organists' isn't really 'ours' anymore.
Another set of siblings, second-generation Gerties, accounts for four or five more of the children. This is another typical traddie low income scenario, almost guaranteed they don't pay.
It’s obvious from the foregoing that these four families account for the MAJORITY of the “student body” (18 or 19 students, out of a total of 25 or 26); and this does NOT include three of the principal’s kids (who go there tuition-free). So, adding them in, the running total is 21 or 22 (out of the overall total 25 or 26) -- with only eight or so out of that total paying any meaningful tuition. This is why the school is such a millstone around Dannie’s neck: with that few children paying tuition, how can he afford to pay the principal (and others in his family who are on the payroll – which, at last count, included his wife and at least one of his daughters)?
Note also that there were at least two other teachers on the faculty as well (one was, we believe, a “volunteer,” and the other got a “nominal” salary). But even granting that these two teachers received nothing at all, two things are certain: first, the principal and his family are getting the lion’s share of the “school money”; and second, tuition from eight or so students isn’t even going to begin to cover that “lion’s share.” So where’s the bulk of the money coming from? The Gerties, of course.
And what have they gotten for their money? Not much. In its first ten years of operation, the school graduated ONE student outside the principal’s family. In fact, the vast majority of graduates have been the principal’s children. (This year was no exception: the only graduate was one of the principal’s sons.) And of those who do manage to “graduate,” NONE have achieved what one would call “academic distinction.” The school, in fact, is woefully inadequate in preparing a student for competing academically in today’s world. Perhaps this is why the older sibling of those two sisters (the “Mrs. X and Mrs. Y” mentioned in the e-mail) sends his children to another school (Fr. Jenkins’ Immaculate Conception School). As the e-mail’s correspondent put it, IC “seems to at least be a real school.”
And although the school’s enrollment is now “more than any in the history of our little school,” twenty-six students (for grades K through 12) is a pathetically small amount, given the size of SGG’s congregation. Actually, most of SGG’s parents with school-age kids home-school them – or send them elsewhere (as that sibling of those two sisters does). They know that not only will their kids get a better education, but they also won’t be subjected to the principal’s brutality (that resulted in half the parish exiting SGG back in 2009.*)
The school’s physical facility itself has eight classrooms – for 25 or 26 students. So, what are most of the rooms used for? It turns out that most of them are filled, not with students, but with Dannie’s junk. The facility has turned out to be a huge waste of money. But the biggest waste of money is its running cost. Consider, for example, that the total remuneration that the principal and his family get for running this “school” is probably close to $100,000/year (and perhaps more). Then consider that SGG’s weekly collection averages around $4000 (actually, it’s been running closer to $3000 lately); but assuming the $4000/wk. figure, that’s $200,000 a year — which means that potentially half of it is going to the principal and his family.
Remember, too, that there are other salaries to be paid, whether they be for other teachers, or for people who work in the parish office. This doesn’t leave much for Dannie and Tony to live on – including “extras” (“doing Lent” in Mexico, “convalescing” in the posh desert southwest, or doing European “apostolates”). That is why he needs to “put the squeeze” on the Gerties to pay his “high energy bills,” etc., to make these “extras” possible.
So, unless the school tuition is astronomical (which it can’t be), the bulk of the “school” cost (i.e., the cost to support the principal and his family) has to come from parishioners’ donations. And what are they getting for their money -- besides giving the principal’s kids a free ride? Nothing, basically. The school is a financial (and academic) sinkhole, and parishioners are beginning to realize this. That’s why most parents keep their kids out of it (that, and also because they don’t want their kids to be subjected to the principal’s sadistic “discipline”). But as bad as the school is academically, spiritually it is even worse. Just as Dannie focuses on irrelevant ceremonial minutiae (while ignoring fundamental Catholic morality), the school does much the same: children are told that “infractions” such as wearing an “inappropriate” head-band in church are mortal sins – yet, according to Dannie, watching porn isn’t. It’s just a case of “boys will be boys.”
The school’s raison d'être is simple: to give the illusion that SGG a “full-service” operation. In reality, the school is just another facet of Dannie’s “show” – long on cosmetics, and short on substance. And what has it really “accomplished”? In its more than twenty years of operation, how many priestly vocations has it produced? Answer: ZERO. And how many “graduates” (other than the principal’s children) has it produced? Answer: less than a handful. (The principal’s family accounts for more grads than all the rest combined.) What the school has “accomplished” so far is to drive away dozens of SGG’s youth -- especially boys (and especially those who were recipients of the principal’s “discipline”). And for such nonsense, the parishioners have paid a premium.
And the worst part is, they have no idea what that premium is. So far, the Gerties have just “accepted” it. But it’s time that they “un-accept” it. For their own wellbeing, they need to insist on accountability – or, better still, insist on eliminating the school – because, whatever its cost, it’s a bad bargain. But what could one expect from an operation run by Dannie Dolan? And because of that, what they really need to do is to eliminate the whole SGG regime -- and the sooner, the better.
* One “telling” thing is that among those “home-schoolers” are many SGG “stalwarts,” including the man whose father wrote several books that Dannie and Tony keep (and sell) in SGG’s bookstore. This man, although he has first-hand knowledge of the abuses that occurred in 2009, pretends that “nothing bad” ever happened and that “all is well” – BUT, the fact that he doesn’t send his kid to SGG’s school “says something.” He probably knows “down deep in his heart” that the school is a cesspool, and that the abuses that occurred there were for real -- but he “pretends along” for (perhaps) “appearance’s sake.”