Bishop High separates from archdiocese

Setting an independent course for its future, Bishop Garcia Diego High School officially became the first school in Southern California (and one of only a few in the nation) to separate from its governing archdiocese and become an independent, private Catholic high school on May 24, commemorating the announcement with an assembly for students and the press.

Dubbed as “a brand new day for Bishop High,” the principal, Rev. Thomas J. Elewaut, C.J., said that the board of trustees would take over the management of the high school. “We are all committed to ensure a Catholic tradition of Christian secondary education here in Santa Barbara,” he said at the assembly, where leaders of the archdiocese formally signed over the building.

The school began in 1932 as Catholic High and became Bishop Garcia Diego High School in 1959. Elewaut characterized the new management model as a sequel, stating, “It is now commonly accepted that blockbuster movies will have sequels. It is also well known that for sequels to be successful they must carry the moviegoer to new places.”

The board of trustees — which includes Patricia Aijian, John Ambrecht, Keith Berry, David Borgatello, Randal Clark, Eileen Curran, Peter Da Ros, John Gherini, Sr. Angela Hallahan, John Hebda, Carol Hoffer, Ralph Iannelli, Barbara Najera, Carla O’Neill, Lynette Patters and B. Williams — has been open with the community about its intentions to take over Bishop High’s management for more than a year, frequently publishing letters which address the changes in governance. The group has also stated that financial assistance will be made available, on a sliding scale, to every family that cannot afford full tuition of $8,500.

According to Elewaut, “We have celebrated 100 percent college admission by our graduates since 2002. This is our inheritance and our legacy to the future students of Bishop Garcia Diego High School.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on May 26, 2005.

Schools offer preliminary headcounts

With the high cost of housing driving declining school enrollment figures throughout the state, there were a few bright spots in the preliminary local students counts.

Bishop Garcia Diego High School was reportedly up to approximately 270 students this week. In January, the Catholic school announced that it was severing relations with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in order to have more local control. At that time a board of directors was formed and the school began actively marketing to the community, a move that resulted in additional students for the fall.

As of Monday, the Hope School District had 1,415 students enrolled, said Superintendent Les Imel. This is approximately 20 fewer students than the district had budgeted for, but still more than the 2003-2004 year end count of 1,371. Imel stressed that those numbers — of which approximately 30 percent are inter-district transfer students — were not final.

Vieja Valley, for example, took in four new students (not included in the 1,415) that day, said Principal Barbara LaCorte.

Getting a handle on enrollment figures is particularly critical in these times of uncertain state funding, but administrators all stressed that the numbers were still fluctuating.

The Santa Barbara Elementary School District had a very preliminary count of 5,386 students, versus a projected 5,585 students, while the secondary district was over its initial projection of 9,474, with a preliminary headcount of 9,762.

The Goleta Union School District had 3,773 students on the first day, but again, emphasized the count was still preliminary.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on September 16, 2004.