MAY 1, 2003
By Howie Mansfield
ROME — The Rome Catholic community is more determined than ever to maintain Catholic education for generations to come. A year removed from a successful fundraising campaign, the Rome Catholic Schools have begun an aggressive marketing program to expand enrollment, provide financial aid and bring awareness of the school to outlying communities.
“The marketing committee is just an expansion of our development committee,” said Dale Rashford, chairman of the Rome Catholic “Continuing the Tradition” Committee. “We have had a Catholic high school in Rome for over 120 years. We want to keep the Catholic education tradition alive. We set the ground work last year and this year’s focus is on increasing enrollment at the high school level.”
The first initiative to come from the Rome Catholic Marketing Committee is the “Recruit a Student” program. Jack Rotolo, a member of the school’s marketing committee, believes reaching out to the community to bring in public school students and new area residents is imperative. “Our ‘Recruit a Student’ program is meant to reward our best salespeople, the parents of current students in our Rome Catholic schools. We want them to promote their Catholic school experience and be our ambassadors to those not in the system,” Rotolo said. “A family will receive a $1,000 tuition credit for each student that is recruited to Rome Catholic Junior/Senior High School.”
The marketing committee is also reaching out within a 20-mile radius of Rome to promote the school, Rotolo noted. “There are 20 parishes within 20 miles of Rome and we will be actively working with them. We want to re-introduce Rome Catholic High School to them. We used to draw from outside areas such as Holland Patent, Boonville, Westmoreland,” he said. “We must get back to those parishes with our product, quality Catholic education.” Rashford and Rotolo said new businesses coming to the Rome area could be just the shot in the arm Catholic schools need. “People deserve to have school choice,” said Rashford. “The new Rome Free Academy has over 1,700 in that building and some of those kids are getting lost in the shuffle. Rome Catholic, a small school with a caring environment, is the alternative people coming to the area will be looking for.”
Next year, the Rome Catholic school system will have a new configuration. With the closing of Transfiguration School, only one elementary school, St. Peter’s School on Floyd Avenue, remains. St. Peter’s will now be a grade K-5 school and Rome Catholic Junior/Senior High School will educate students in grades 6-12. The Rome Catholic development and marketing committees will focus and promote one unified Catholic School system in Rome, with special short-term focus on high school enrollment. “Last year, Bishop Moynihan asked us to raise over $100,000 and keep our enrollment up in order to stay open. We did that,” Rashford said. “The bishop said the school would remain open as long as we have a balanced budget. We are intent on making the bottom line [budget] every year.” Additional marketing ideas are being planned for the future. Some of them include open houses for public school students, a “shadow” day program, and using a direct mail packet to new families entering the area, to help promote Rome Catholic schools.
“This year, we wanted a broader scope to our development. Not only fundraising and development, but also marketing,” Rotolo said. “The message is not being articulated well enough. When you have the right connections being made and you get people to come into the school and see what we are all about, they won’t walk out.” Financial aid and scholarship programs are also being developed. Public school students will be encouraged to take a look at Rome Catholic High School for one year. The school also hopes to target high academic achievers in the surrounding communities with scholarships. Rashford and Rotolo feel no child should be denied a Catholic education. “We need to be creative and try new things — anything that we can do to generate awareness,” Rotolo said. With several athletic and extracurricular activities available, Rome Catholic provides quality Catholic education that prepares students for college, Rotolo said. “I am a product of Rome Catholic schools and I feel this is the highest quality education available. The quality of the education and the strong Catholic community are very important to me. This marketing committee wants to ensure the families of Rome that they will have this opportunity for their children. We are doing everything possible to make sure it happens,” commented Rotolo.
For more information on enrollment or the “Recruit a Student” program at Rome Catholic, visit the school’s website,http://www.romecatholichighschool.org/ or call (315) 336-6190.