May 20 - St. Francis of Assisi School to Consolidate with Cheverus School and St. Joseph School*

May 20, 2010

Medford, MA– Rev. Joseph R. Foster, Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Medford, MA, has informed parents and parishioners today that St. Francis of Assisi School will consolidate with St. Joseph School in Medford and Cheverus School in Malden.  St. Francis School will close at the end of the current academic year in June 2010.

In making the announcement, Fr. Foster stated, “I have a great compassion regarding the education of our children here at St. Francis.  Throughout my ministry and prior to my arrival at St. Francis, I prayed to become a pastor of a parish with a school.  That we are unable to keep St. Francis of Assisi School open saddens me.  However, I am confident that the mission and vision of the school will continue by consolidating our students with two outstanding schools such as St. Joseph and Cheverus.  We give thanks for the many contributions of our teachers, staff, students, and families who helped to shape the history of St. Francis of Assisi School these past many years.”

Not unlike the challenges faced by Catholic schools across the nation, St. Francis of Assisi School has experienced a steady decline in enrollment in recent years.   As a result, St. Francis parish has been subsidizing the school over the past three years, with the accumulated deficit surpassing $150,000.  Enrollment is projected next year to be approximately 135 students, a 50% decline in just five years and well below the enrollment of 205 the school needs to operate with a balanced budget. Despite a deep commitment to Catholic education, the parish can no longer afford to cover the school’s rapidly growing deficit. 

The consolidation of students represents a rare partnership with St Joseph Parish and Sacred Hearts Parish (Cheverus School), which is rooted in a four-parish collaborative. In addition to Fr. Foster, Fr. Patrick McLaughlin (Pastor, Saint Joseph), Fr. Daniel Hickey (Pastor, Sacred Hearts) and Fr. Richard Mehm (Pastor, Immaculate Conception) have worked hard to create the Medford-Malden collaborative.

Father Foster noted in announcing the decision that, “we are fortunate to be part of a multi-parish collaborative that is working together for the well being of the children and families of Saint Francis School.” Next week, Cheverus and St. Joseph will host special Open Houses for St. Francis families:

  • Cheverus School will hold its open houses on Sunday, May 23 (4:00-6:00 p.m.) and Monday, May 24 (6:00-8:00 p.m.).
  • Saint Joseph School will hold its open houses on Wednesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 27 (6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on both nights). 

Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education/Superintendent for Catholic Schools said, “Working with pastors and educators across the Archdiocese we are addressing the challenges of the tough economic climate, changing demographics, declining enrollment and resulting financial constraints. We are pleased to support the effort by these four parishes and their pastors to ensure high quality Catholic education in their region.”

Cheverus and St. Joseph have also been focused on maintaining enrollment.  By assisting St. Francis families in this consolidation, both schools will be able to bolster their respective student bodies and ensure strong Catholic education presence in Medford and Malden.

In a joint statement to all St. Francis parents, Susan Degnan and James Deveney, principals of Cheverus and St. Joseph, stated, “St. Francis of Assisi school has been recognized for decades as an outstanding educational institution with a special devotion to families and especially the children attending the parish school.  We have been asked to immediately reach out to assist you in the timely placement of your children in one of the Catholic schools in our four-parish collaborative.” 

All current St. Francis teachers and staff will be encouraged to apply for positions in other Catholic schools.  Teachers will be placed on the Archdiocese’s Preferred Interview List, which is circulated weekly to principals across the Archdiocese. Representatives from the Archdiocese’s Human Resources Office and Catholic Schools Office will meet with faculty next week to start providing information on applying for other positions within the Archdiocese and beyond.  Human Resources will also offer sessions on resume building and interview skills in early June.

The announcement was made to faculty, staff, parents, students and parishioners in writing and through an informational meeting at St. Francis of Assisi Church.  Informational sessions will continue for students, parents and families across the spring and summer.

About the Archdiocese of Boston: The Diocese of Boston was founded on April 8, 1808 and was elevated to Archdiocese in 1875. Currently serving the needs of nearly two million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Boston is an ethnically diverse and spiritually enriching faith community consisting of 291 parishes, across 144 communities, educating approximately 46,000 students in its Catholic schools and 156,000 in religious education classes each year, ministering to the needs of 200,000 individuals through its pastoral and social service outreach and in support of a health care ministry that meets the needs of some one million patients each year.   Mass is celebrated in nearly twenty different languages each week. For more information, please visit

Fact sheet for ST FRANCIS School

St. Francis

Faculty/Staff:  17.5 FTE teachers; 4 staff (including principal)

Tuition:  2009-10, $3995; 2010-11, $4165 

Enrollment Trends:

2009-2010:   213

2008/2009:   239

2007/2008:   225

2006/2007:   265

2005/2006:   236

2004/2005:   266