Thanks to the concerted efforts of alumni, students, parents and the entire community, Mater Dei Prep received approval this week from Bishop David M. O’Connell, CM, Diocese of Trenton, to open in September as a private, Catholic school.
The fight to “Save the Seraphs” began in early February when Fr. Jeff Kegley, pastor of Saint Mary’s parish, announced Mater Dei Prep would close at the end of the school year due to a $1 million operating deficit. Fr. Kegley then gave the community until April 15 to raise the needed funds. A group of concerned alumni, led by Jim Shaw (Class of ’76), immediately formed The Seraph’s Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, and began raising the $1 million through direct donations and fundraisers. A separate steering committee, led by Randy MacDonald, simultaneously developed a plan to address the school’s long-term viability through privatization.
The plan, approved by Bishop O’Connell on Thursday, provides for Mater Dei Prep to reopen as a new entity, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with an independent Board of Trustees to act as fiscal and operational stewards over the school. The Diocese of Trenton will still provide ecclesiastical guidance to the school. Previously a parish school, Mater Dei Prep will now be financially and operationally independent from Saint Mary’s Parish. The plan does not impact Saint Mary School, which will remain a parish-run elementary school on the Saint Mary’s campus adjacent to Mater Dei Prep.
Bishop O’Connell expressed his gratitude toward the steering committee in a letter, saying, “Thank you for your diligent work and for your efforts to further Catholic secondary education. I pray for your success.”
Additionally, Fr. Kegley echoed many in the community with his statement: "I am excited that the mission of secondary Catholic education will continue on the Campus of Saint Mary’s at Mater Dei Prep. This is great news for our parish community and all who have worked and prayed so hard to secure the future of Mater Dei Prep for generations to come. I want to thank Bishop David O’Connell for his approval of the new model for Mater Dei Prep, Jim Shaw who chaired the “Save the Seraphs” campaign, Randy MacDonald for chairing the steering committee, the Saint Mary’s parishioners for their support and, most of all, our students who never gave up believing in Mater Dei Prep."
Integral to Mater Dei Prep’s success is the stewardship of an independent Board of Trustees. The current board consists of business, financial and legal professionals, many of whom are alumni of Mater Dei Prep. Chairman Randy MacDonald and members John Budzyna, Ellen Poole, Gerard Harper, Esq., Kathryn McLaughlin, Esq., and James Daly, Jr., along with many dedicated volunteers, were instrumental in creating and providing the diocese with the comprehensive plan for Mater Dei Prep’s future. They are now conducting a search for a president to guide the school through this transition and into what they project will be a stable and strong future.
“Our intent is to maintain the great culture of success we’ve had at Mater Dei Prep, academically and outside the classroom,” explained Mr. MacDonald, “and marry that with our new governance model, fiscal discipline, inclusiveness and a transparent reporting structure.
“We owe many thanks to the Bishop and Fr. Jeff for having the faith in this group of people to manage this business,” said Mr. MacDonald. “They understand the importance of a Catholic education and teaching our young people Catholic values.”
The Seraph’s Fund, after reaching the $1 million goal three weeks ahead of the deadline, now moves into its role as an endowment fund for Mater Dei Prep. Thrilled about the announcement, Jim Shaw explained that, “We have moved from tragedy to triumph because people believed in our students, our school, our family. The work of The Seraph’s Fund has not ended, it has just begun. We are ready for the mission ahead.”
The Seraph’s Fund intends to increase its reserves by continuing fundraising efforts and engaging more of Mater Dei Prep’s 6,000 alumni with its #SeraphStrong campaign. An increased endowment will allow the fund to focus on providing scholarships and capital improvements for the school.
The plan developed by the Mater Dei Prep Board of Trustees projects the $1.5 million raised in the Save the Seraphs campaign will bridge the school to profitability in the next few years. According to Mr. MacDonald, “A more disciplined approach to marketing and sales, plus the fact that we’ve now established a track record of annual fundraising, will allow us to continue the Mater Dei Prep tradition of providing a quality Catholic education to all students.”
Registering the Class of 2019 will be the first order of business for Mater Dei Prep. According to Dennis Tobin, Athletic Director, currently overseeing the registration process, “We have over 50 potential freshmen in our pipeline and we continue to register new students daily. Additionally, the vast majority of our current students have indicated they are returning to Mater Dei Prep. We have received positive feedback regarding the Board of Trustees’ meeting and our families are excited about the depth of our business plan.”
Current Mater Dei Prep families are elated and relieved by the news. “As parents of a current sophomore and an incoming freshman, it gives us great joy to know that not only will our children be able to reap the benefits of the Mater Dei Prep experience,“ said Dorothea and Brian Laux, “but that others will be able to enjoy it for many, many years to come.”
Many have worked tirelessly these past three months to ensure this outcome for the community. The goal of the board is to elevate Mater Dei Prep’s past successful aspects—the College Advantage program, the unique Center for Achievement, the award-winning arts program, the competitive athletic teams and the focus on community service—all while bringing the highest level of college preparatory, Catholic education to the children of Monmouth County.
According to Mr. Tobin, “We remain committed to providing a high quality athletic program staffed with the best available coaches and will continue to honor all of our scheduling commitments. We will continue to offer women’s ice hockey and explore the possibility of adding new programs in the future.”
On Tuesday, May 19, the school will host an Open House for those interested in enrolling and learning about the future vision for Mater Dei Prep. Three sessions will be offered that day — 8:00am–10:00am; 12:00pm–2:00pm; and 6:00pm–8:00pm — and will include tours of the school and information sessions with board members, current students and parents. For more information about the Open House or to enroll at Mater Dei Prep, please contact Mr. Tobin at 732.671.9100 ext. 12.
The school celebrates 50 years of graduating classes with a weekend of activities beginning May 29. On Friday, Mater Dei Prep will host an Alumni Open House from 10:00am-1:00pm with tours of the school, lunch and cabaret performances by current students. Everyone in the community can enjoy a family picnic on Saturday, May 30 from noon to 4:00pm with music, food, and children’s activities sponsored by King James/Care One.
The Seraph’s Fund’s next fundraising event is a benefit concert at Count Basie Theater on Thursday, April 30. The show features "Brian Kirk & The Jirks" with special guests "The Magic Taxis." Tickets are available through the Count Basie Theatre box office. A limited number of VIP seats with a pre-show cocktail party sponsored by Buona Sera are available.For more information about The Seraph’s Fund and upcoming fundraising events or to make a donation to The Seraph’s Fund, please visit www.seraphfund.org.
One School. One Family.
Seraphs in Middletown
The Seraph's Fund
PO Box 4086, Middletown, NJ 07748