Walsh Administration: Sale Offers Fair Chance and Clarity on School’s Future
OLEAN (Aug. 5, 2022) – The Diocese of Buffalo has officially listed the Archbishop Walsh/Southern Tier Catholic School building and property for sale.
While a “for sale” sign is posted out front and listed online at Howard Hanna Professionals, Walsh/STCS officials assure the sales process offers clarity on the future – and a fair chance at potentially retaining its home since 1959.
“Honesty is the best policy, and the honest answer is the official sales process is good news to our beloved private Catholic school. In fact, we are very excited for this opportunity,” said Frank McAndrew, Walsh/STCS Board President. “Walsh/STCS is not closing. We understand some families and community members have some concerns at this stage, but there is no chance that this school year will be disrupted due to this real estate situation. We have received assurances from the Diocese of Buffalo that this school year can and will be completed in the current property.”
Since 1991, the Walsh Board of Trustees has leased the property from the Diocese of Buffalo. In an effort to gain greater independence of the physical space, over the past five years the Board has made several good-faith and fair-market value offers to purchase the property, but such efforts have been stonewalled at every turn, McAndrew said. The Diocese and Bankruptcy court have deemed this step necessary. By listing the property in this way, the Diocese is trying to relieve itself of ownership responsibility while the courts aim to maximize financial returns for victims of clergy abuse.
“Our focus throughout this whole process has been to act in the best interest of our students,” McAndrew added. “We believe the first and best use of this property is to continue to operate our school. We’ll continue to work toward that goal.”
The Diocese withdrew nearly all its financial support several years ago, leaving Walsh/STCS to pursue its educational and cultural mission alone. Yet, the school retains many generous donors and community benefactors who back our mission full-heartedly, in addition to several ongoing fundraisers that net several hundred thousand dollars annually, McAndrew said.
Walsh/STCS recently welcomed Dr. Colleen Taggerty – the former longtime Olean City School District Superintendent – as the new school President. Dr. Taggerty has left retirement to assume chief executive duties and manage the 2021-26 Strategic Plan, which includes efforts toward streamlining operations and increasing revenues via strategic marketing to local and international audiences alike.
“Dr. Taggerty brings more leadership experience and community stature than most seasoned executives in our region,” McAndrew said. “She stands out above all others, and will not only add credibility to our institution but also to the negotiation processes as we attempt to keep our home.”
This fall, the school will open the Volpe International Residence Hall to house its first cohort of boarding students.
“We’re not just here for the local families,” McAndrew said. “We’ve worked hard to transform this school into an international destination. This fall, we have six students coming from Japan. At Walsh, we bring together all cultures, and we work to understand each other.”
Walsh/STCS remains a viable alternative to the public education system, with at least 150 children expected to be enrolled from the pre-K Montessori program through 12th grade to start the 2022-23 school year. The school maintains a 100 percent graduation rate, 94 percent of graduates are college-bound, and many go on to attend some of the most selective colleges and universities in the country.
“When students graduate from Walsh,” McAndrew said, “they’re ready for the tests they’ll face in college and the real world. They’re ready to go.”
McAndrew further noted many eligible Bradford, Pa. families and Seneca Nation of Indians members can attend Walsh/STCS under scholarships and trusts covering 75 percent to 100 percent of tuition.
“For so many kids – for the young men and women of our future – traditional education systems are leaving them wanting and needing more,” said Walsh/STCS Principal BethAnn Owens. “Wanting to be more than a number, needing to be more than a test score. We provide high-quality academics with faith-based values.”
The Walsh/STCS administration thanks its current families and benefactors for continuous support through this lengthy legal process.
“Regardless of any potential real estate transactions, the strength of Walsh/STCS is not a building, it is the people that live out and share our mission,” McAndrew concluded. “We’re confident in this process. We will continue to stand as the regional standard of academic excellence.”