IV Press Article ### Parishioners Rally to Sacred Heart

Posted on Mar 10, 2016

by William Roller

BRAWLEY — When an institution passes the century mark it takes on the aura of antiquity and thanks to Imperial County resident’s sense of historical preservation Sacred Heart School will educate generations to come.

After hitting a financial speed bump Sacred Heart School is replenishing its coffers thanks to generous friends said Principal Brian Barrett.

“Since it’s been a tough year, we’ve got parishioners and the community involved in a ‘Save the School’ campaign, taking in donations to eliminate the deficit ($80,000),” said Barrett. “And we’re building an endowment for the future. This is the better business model.”

Parishioners have dug in their heels. They have experienced lean times before and prevailed. Parishioners who have direct or indirect connections to the school since its establishment by pioneer settlers in 1914 will not let it go. Tuitions have been raised about five percent for several years but administrators are careful not to price out the families they serve. Sacred Heart student body is a mirror image of the Valley itself with about 80 percent Latino, and the remainder Asian, with slightly more Anglos.

Along with tuition hikes staff have been cut to a minimum and stalwart parent volunteers fulfill former staff roles. But the beauty of the school, small classes kept to 20 pupils is a double-edged sword that can create a fiscal conundrum when enrollment drops much below the 20 benchmark.

“Our goal is to provide a Catholic education for those who desire it,” Barrett stressed. “They come for the close attention to academic detail. And they come for the safety and the moral background. Kids at other institutions may get away with bullying, but because we’re faith based, nothing here gets out of hand.”

Rob Chell, who teaches Java Script computer programing to a combined class of sixth- through eighth-graders, called the small classes fantastic.

“Whenever anybody enters programming, no matter their academic experience, most enter at more or less the same level,” Chell said. “Programing is abstract. Typically, students learn it then forget it, but we utilize gamification. It makes the process very friendly and memorable.”

Still, the school has been buffeted by the slow recovery from the 2008/09 recession and loss of enrollment when National Beef and the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement facility closed in 2014.

But parents have taken up initiatives of their own by holding a truck raffle, offering a Toyota Tundra as grand prize. Also, they have scheduled an annual golf tournament. And the school has received an Imperial Irrigation District energy efficiency grant, replacing their air conditioning system and incandescent bulbs with LED lighting that saved on electricity.

Some suggested Sacred Heart close up and send students to other Catholic schools, but that is not an option for north county residents.

“We’re distinctly a part of the northend and an interesting thing is we attract students from all over the Valley,” Barrett said. “Some families have five generations of kids who’ve gone through here. We feel we’re an important part of the future for the northend.”

Staff Writer William Roller can be reached at wroller@ivpressonline.com or 760-337-3452.