Can QPHS raise $1M by June 30?


It’s going to take a miracle — and some strong long-term planning — to keep Queen of Peace High School open beyond this academic year.

That’s because the school’s new president and the Pastor of Queen of Peace Parish, the Rev. Michael Donovan announced on May 26 that if the school is unable to raise $1 million by the end of June, it is probably the school will shut down.

But the pastor who has only been on the job in North Arlington for a few weeks — he recently took over for long-time pastor the Rev. Msgr. William Fadrowski, who retired May 1 — remains positive the goal can be met.

“Growing up, my father taught me the importance of being honest with people, especially in matters involving their children,” Donovan said to the May 26 crowd assembled at Queen of Peace Church. “In that vein, I have asked you all here tonight to discuss honestly where we stand as a school community and the challenges we face together. I promise to each and every one of you that we will be honest and forthright in the days and months ahead.”

And honest and forthright he was. Moments later, he let the crowd know of the dire situation at hand.

“As I said a few moments ago, we need to be honest with ourselves,” the pastor said. “The finances of our institution were not managed as well as they should have. Regardless of the past, we can get through this. Queen of Peace High School has a long and rich tradition. Over our 82-year history, we have prepared thousands of young men and women to be business owners, doctors, lawyers, community leaders, I could go on. We are proud that Queen of Peace has laid a foundation for the development of our community’s Catholic men and women.

“Here is our task: Work together, all elements of the Queen of Peace family, joining in a fundraising effort to raise $1 million by June 30.”

So just how will the $1 million be raised? And will reaching that goal mean the school’s doors will absolutely remain office?

Not necessarily, said James Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, which oversees all diocesan schools.

“The idea of raising $1 million is a start for the coming year, but it’s not everything,” Goodnes told The Observer last week. “The leadership of the school has to do more for the long term than just raise the money. They’re going to have to try to develop a long-term plan to increase enrollment — to increase the student body — and build on that for the next few years. Yes, the money is indeed important, but there’s much more to this.”

Goodness estimated the school’s enrollment, currently less than 300 students, would need to increase, in the coming years, to around 500 to be more viable. In the past, the school saw as many as 900 students enrolled, he said.

“For this to succeed, the school has to change,” Goodness said. “There has to be concrete goals and a financial plan to move forward.”

Meanwhile, while there are many who doubt $1 million can be raised, Goodness pointed to two other potential school closures that were averted over the last decade as a sign QPHS could, ultimately, succeed, despite the dire situation.

“Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair recently raised a very strong amount of money in a short period of time,” Goodness said. “And there was Hudson Catholic, in Jersey City, as well.”

Hudson Catholic, however, benefitted from going from an all-boys school to a co-ed institution. That boosted the school’s enrollment — and it’s still open to this day.

ICHS in Montclair was slated to close its doors two years ago — on June 30, 2014. At the time, their fundraising goal was $500,000, half of what QPHS needed. At the close of June 2014, the school had raised more than half of that amount, at nearly $300,000. In total, they raised $506,300 using GoFundMe.

QPHS is doing the very same, and as of Monday morning, June 6, they’ve raised $104,072 in the 10 days since the site was set up by the school’s alumni association. Some 261 individuals and businesses have already donated.

If you’re interested in donating, do so by logging on to or

The story, which has captured the regional attention of the news media, has some parents worried about the future — though most we spoke with remain positive the fundraising efforts will be successful.

One parent is Alannah McDonald whose son, Justin, is currently a junior, a member of the class of 2017. McDonald says she’s somewhat used to this happening since when Justin was a seventh-grader at the now-closed Mater Dei Academy (formerly St. Stephen’s School), the two went through the very same process of seeing a school close its doors one year before Justin was to graduate.

“When we first got the call, I was a bit surprised, but I said to myself, ‘Oh no, here we go again — we’re going to have to fundraise,” McDonald, a resident of Kearny, said. “It caught Justin and me by surprise. He’s very upset because he’s thrived at QPHS — and he just wants to go back to the school for his senior year. He doesn’t want his school taken away again.

“The teachers there have been great. I just hope there are people who want to give — and as little or as much as they can, it all helps.”

Despite having gone through this already, McDonald continues to believe they’ll raise $1 million — and that the Archbishop of Newark, the Most Rev. John J. Myers, will eventually sign off on the school remaining open.

“We all have to have the faith it’ll happen,” McDonald said.

One thing McDonald and other parents question, however, is why school and archdiocesan officials waited until May 26 to announce the dire situation.

Goodness said it wasn’t a matter of waiting for Msgr. Fadrowski to retire before doing so — it was more the time it takes to review an institution’s financial situation by outsiders.

“Once March rolled around, they began to look at the situation, and the new pastor was able to uncover the true picture,” Goodness said. “It takes time to go through the auditing. And because of the hard work of Fr. Mike (Donovan) and Mr. (John) Tonero, the school’s principal, we were all now informed of the reality of it all.”

For one parent, who asked we not use her name, that’s simply not good enough an excuse for waiting until late May to jumpstart the fundraising efforts. In fact, she was ready to place the blame squarely.

“They’re not saying it, they won’t say it, but I know who’s responsible for this mess,” the mother of a current sophomore said. “It’s the former pastor. For years, he was too busy replacing people that didn’t need to be replaced by his cronies. He wasn’t paying attention to who was or who wasn’t paying tuition. When you accept students who can’t afford the tuition, you have to find a way to cover that tuition.

“Do you think for a second that happened? Who did that hurt the most? The people that were paying tuition.”

A 5-year plan

The school’s principal, on June 4, released a five-year plan to keep the school financially stable — and much more transparent than it’s been in the past — if the fundraising efforts are ultimately successful.

Among the highlights of the plan are:

  • Stronger fundraising throughout the school year. According to the plan: “In the past, QPHS has not had a robust fundraising function, focusing on a limited number of donors, and then all too frequently. In some instances, donors have become disenfranchised due to a lack of gratitude or follow-up.”
  • Monitor tuition-collection. “QPHS has identified tuition collection as an area for improvement. Best practices have been adopted form schools who perform well in this area.”
  • Having more than just one person signing off on expenditures. “Dual signatures for expenditures and withdrawals above a minimum amount.”
  • Actively seeking financial irregularities. “The administration will provide a confidential method for disclosing any potential financial irregularities, the investigation of these irregularities and the conclusion of these investigations.”

How can you help?

The fundraising continues through June 30. To donate or to find out how else you could help, log on to There, you’ll find multiple methods for donating money — and other ways you might be able to help.

Be sure to check back with The Observer,  and for continuing coverage of this story. As information comes to us, we’ll share it with you.


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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.