Nazareth stays open, excited for future

Todd Jamison labeled himself as cautiously optimistic when it came to the future of Nazareth. It was announced in February that the school would close at the end of the year, but the boys basketball coach knew the school wouldn't go down without a fight.

As the fundraising efforts increased, Jamison became more confident the doors would remain open in East Flatbush. Wednesday, at a press conference, Jamison's and many others hopes became a reality as the school announced it would stay open for the next four years, leaving the school buzzing with excitement about its future.

"We just refused to accept the fact that the Board of Trustees wanted to close the school," Jamison said. "I haven't heard of any school that is going to close and that was going to be re-opening against. I'm just speechless."

Amid financial problems and declining enrollment, Nazareth announced in February the school would close. The school started working toward trying to stay open and had to meet three goals by April 15: enroll 80 freshman for next year's class, raise at least $700,000 to help pay off the deficit, and create a plan for long-term sustainability.

Jamison, as well as athletic director Rochelle Murphy, both admitted to initially thinking the school would close and there was nothing that could be done. It went right down to the wire but the school found way to meet the requirements. Nazareth has a 98 percent graduation rate for its students and 96 percent go on to college.

"For us to be staying open is a tremendous sense of pride," Murphy said. "You meet people who say good luck and I hope you stay open, but it doesn't seem like they're giving you much of a chance. I wasn't even giving us much of a chance at the beginning. To have overcome all this and be successful carrying out our plan, it's tremendous."

Those connected to the school applauded the work of school principal Providencia Quiles, for her efforts in finding a way for the school to stay open. Jamison mentioned that having a few months to work with also helped as the school had time to try and save itself.

"It's a big relief," Nazareth girls basketball co-coach Ron Kelley said. "There is a God. I'm very happy. We're very happy with this principal. I think she works hard and we're very happy to be with this administration and we think everybody worked hard to save the school and we're very excited."

Nazareth is coming off a banner year for the school. The boys basketball team won the CHSAA Class B State tile and the girls team repeated as the CHSAA Class AA State champions. Both teams made it to the State Federation tournament, although neither won the title.

Heading into that tournament, it was thought that those would be the last times that Nazareth would try to win titles. Now, Nazareth heads into next season looking to defend its titles, thanks to the hard work of many that resulted in new life in East Flatbush.

"People were elated at the press conference, because you're talking about closing the school and now we're back open again," Jamison said. "You just had to be there. We did something people thought we could not do. We won the war. That's the only way I can put it."