New Catholic Schools Superintendent: NCCS has future for community

Michael C. LaFever

Northern Chautauqua Catholic School has its work cut out with struggling enrollment and finances, but a new superintendent of Catholic Schools is aiming to provide his experience and expertise to help turn it around.

Michael C. LaFever assumed leadership of Catholic schools on June 29 upon the retirement of Sister Carol Cimino. LaFever, who formerly served as president at St. Benedict School in Buffalo, enters the position with 47 years of education experience as a teacher and administrator.

Born in Olean, LaFever started as an elementary school teacher. He’s also served as a principal, worked as curriculum specialist for BOCES, taught higher education and served in administrative roles at two SUNY schools.

Having worked in higher Catholic education for a number of years, LaFever said he’s come to appreciate the value that Catholic schools offer to families and children. As the only private Catholic school in Chautauqua County, he says he has high hopes for NCCS and its future in the community.

As for the school’s financial situation, LaFever says he’ll be assisting to find short- and long-term solutions.

“They have a gap right now in their finances the next school year, but they’re working diligently to raise funds for that,” he said. “I’m trying to help through the diocese in terms of finding some benefactors and donors who might be able to help close that gap even though they may or may not live in Chautauqua County. There are people in Western New York that value Catholic education and I’m hoping some of them will step forward and help them out.”

LaFever says he’s offering to work with school officials next year on a forensic audit of the school to examine its structural organization, finances, tuition, revenue sources and expenditures. LaFever says he’s also looking to assist the school with a long-term financial plan.

“I’m encouraging schools to look very seriously to building an endowment for the school… something that can be a financial base for them to weather them through the lean years and to gain in the better years,” he said. “That’s one of the things we’ll be talking to that school about.”

LaFever also touched on the situation regarding the opioid clinic’s proposed location near the school and the recent decision by Hispanics United of Buffalo to seek a new site.

“That’s a great relief to the school because that clearly was causing some parents to pause about continuing to send their children there,” he said.

Upon a visit to NCCS a few weeks ago, LaFever says he noticed incredible family support. He also saw commitment from the NCCS school board and administration to keep the school up and running. Board members said they’re thrilled to have LaFever as new superintendent as his track record speaks for itself.

“He increased the enrollment at St. Benedict’s School by 50 percent in just two years,” said Jill Spayer Drab, NCCS board member.

“He has a strong commitment to NCCS and has expressed that he will help ‘bridge the gap’ with our needs at NCCS. His primary focus is enhancing our already strong academics as well as ensuring that Catholic education is preserved in Chautauqua County.”

NCCS has embarked on a fundraising campaign with hopes to raise $100,000. The school is requesting financial support from the community to meet the rising cost of preserving the important tradition and continue to provide quality education opportunities for the community.

“The preservation of NCCS is also important for the local economy. Most faculty and staff live in this community,” Spayer Drab said. “The school purchases most equipment and supplies from local businesses. We also offer our popular after-school program that enables working parents to both enroll their children at NCCS and contribute to the community.”

Donations can be sent to NCCS: 336 Washington Ave., Dunkirk or through PayPal on our website of https://www.nccschool.us/donations.

In addition to LaFever as new superintendent, Bishop Richard Malone made a recent announcement that Pastor Daniel Walsh from Holy Trinity in Dunkirk will serve as canonical administrator for NCCS. Walsh notes that the the struggle of NCCS is a community emergency, and it should call people to rally.

“This is not a Catholic problem, it is a community problem – Dunkirk, Fredonia, Brocton, Silver Creek, Cassadaga, Forestville, South Dayton, and others,” Walsh said. “It is not just a loss for Catholics, but a loss of spiritual, moral, soul-filled alternative education for all. It is as big a loss as the closing of NRG.”

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