Venango Catholic Schools Association moving forward

From staff reports

The newly created Venango Region Catholic School Association has moved forward with plans for the future as it recently appointed its full board of directors.

For the first time since its inception, members of both the association and its board of directors met last month at St. Mark Catholic Center in Erie.

“I am really impressed and pleased with the commitment of the people on this board,” said Jim Gallagher, superintendent of Erie Catholic Schools. “They are jumping in and tackling the difficult challenges that the schools are facing.”

Both the directors and members have worked collaboratively, Gallagher said, to find representatives from all three schools in the Venango Region Association. The schools are St. Patrick Elementary in Franklin and St. Stephen Elementary and Venango Catholic High School, both in Oil City.

Erie Catholic Diocese Bishop Lawrence Persico is chairman of the association’s board of members.

Other members of the association are Gallagher; the Rev. Nicholas Rouch, vicar for education in the Erie Diocese: Msgr. Edward Lohse, vicar general in the diocese: Msgr. John Herbein, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Franklin; the Rev. John Miller, pastor of the partnered Oil City parishes of St. Joseph and St. Stephen; and Greg Merkel, who is also the chairman of the association’s board of directors.

Three at-large representatives of the board of directors were approved at the November meeting. They are Joseph Grunenwald, Michelle McGee Morrison and Robert Puleo.

Other directors on the board are Kay Hopwood, Ray Feroz, Deacon Richard O’Polka, Margaret Janidlo and Debra Sobina.

Faced with enrollment and financial concerns, the schools came together to strengthen Catholic education in the Oil City/Franklin area. The association used a grant from the Religious Education Endowment Fund to conduct an outside comprehensive study capturing socio-economic, geographic, cultural, attitudinal and historical information and more.

Merkel said last month’s meeting was the first chance for the directors and members to meet each other.

“We have certainly come a long way and have had good direction,” Merkel said. “We pulled together on something that we all feel is important.”