The AHA Front Lawn Debacle: Attention all Stars

Hello, we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this extremely hot topic:

The rumors are true. AHA is selling the iconic, sprawling front lawn to a developer called Semper. There will be commercial buildings in front of the school, including a Walgreens.

Quick, everyone freak out and cry about how this is a travesty and a crime and how could they do this to your school?!

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Time for unpopular opinion? Time for unpopular opinion.

Contrary to what many alumni currently inhabiting Facebook seem to believe, this is not the end of Holy Angels as we know it. In fact, this is the opposite of the end of Holy Angels because the sale of the front lawn is going to allow Holy Angels to remain open and operating for the foreseeable future. Which brings me to my first point.

Quick survey:

Raise your hand if you, as an individual adult, have made a donation to AHA in the last five years in any capacity. If you have, thank you for supporting the school, and congratulations! You have a reason to be disgruntled with the situation.

Now, keep your hand up if your donation(s) in the last five years have totaled more than $100. If they have, thank you for your generosity in supporting the school, and congratulations! You have a reason to moderately complain about the situation among friends and family.  

Finally, keep your hand up if you have donated in excess of $5,000,000 and/or have fully educated yourself on all of the facts surrounding the sale (and I don’t just mean reading all the posts on the Facebook page, I mean actually sitting down with all the literature from the school and asking the administration questions and getting the entire story). If you have, congratulations! You have a legitimate reason to actively campaign against the sale.

Everyone else, let me explain you a thing.

Yes, the sale is about the money. Of course it’s about the money, AHA is a private school that charges tuition. It needs money to survive. Typically, money comes from tuition and donations and fund raising. As it currently stands, AHA has its lowest enrollment in years at 650 students, with only 140 9th graders, putting it in the middle of a nasty catch-22.

An easy way to get more money quickly would be to raise tuition, but they can’t raise tuition and attract more students to attend during an economically troubled era in a state that has some of the best public (ahem, free) schools in the country. Topping that off with the fact that AHA is sitting on about $9 million of debt, and currently does not have an endowment, the forecast isn’t exactly sunny.

For the financially unaware, an endowment represents money or other financial assets that are donated to the school. The sole intention of the endowment is to invest it, so that the total asset value will yield an inflation-adjusted principal amount, along with additional income for further investments and supplementary expenditures. Endowments typically follow strict guidelines of how each year’s investment income can be spent, and might be allotted to a number of things like debt payments, overhead expenses, and scholarships or financial aid.

For an institution like AHA, not having an endowment is never a good thing. For AHA right now, not having an endowment is a pretty damn bad thing.

The sale of the front lawn to Semper – at about $5.6 million, which is substantially higher than the assessed value, by the way – will give AHA an instant endowment of $2 million.

Which is a pretty damn great thing.

Of course with everything, it’s never just about the money. We’re talking traffic logistics, security and safety concerns, zoning, parking, utilities, aesthetics, everything. This is huge. This is an undertaking. This is a huge undertaking.

I guarantee that every single fleeting thought, or passing concern, or momentary argument you have had tossing around in your head for the last few weeks or days or hours has been thought of, addressed, and neutralized.

I guarantee it.

This was not a snap decision that they took without hesitation or forethought. They took months upon months of deliberation and planning and reasoning and planning and debating and planning and preparing and planning and revising and oh my God the planning that went into this. They took so long in the deciding process they almost lost the bid.

In September there was an Alumni Board meeting addressing the campus plan. I attended with almost as much animosity towards this plan as most of you currently hold, but I also listened. I asked questions. I took notes. I became better educated about the plan and learned that I had been misinformed and was holding on to quite a few misconceptions. 

So what can you take away from this?

Well for one, tomorrow is Give to the Max Day. Don’t let the campus plan affect your plan to donate to AHA. Selling the lawn isn’t a fix-all, it’s just a springboard to get them started, and they still need and appreciate every penny of support that comes their way. If you’re able, please consider a donation of any capacity. Remember, it will give you good reason to be disgruntled!

I am not saying that you have to be fully on board with this plan. I am asking that you understand why it’s not as bad as everyone is making it seem.

Please. Take a deep breath, step away from Facebook, and get the whole story because that – not this bandwagon mob mentality, trolling, and personal vendettas – is the AHA Way.  

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2 responses to “The AHA Front Lawn Debacle: Attention all Stars

  1. I think it’s great that you put your input… Hooray! People aren’t keeping themselves updated with this story, there are a lot of big gaps that you can only fill in by reading the actual information from the AHA website. There are many things to think about. Of course everyone has the right to be upset that the icon of AHA is being sold, but would you rather have the entire school shut down because it has become bankrupt or sell a portion of the land to kind of jump start things again. Just think when AHA was an all girls school, the school’s current building was chosen about 1931. Fast forward about 1972, when the school turned coeducational! I’m sure this turned a couple of heads and made some people very angry, but hey this is how you keep up with the times. Yes I’m some what upset, but think about how this will change the campus. Think of both the good and the bad.The business classes they may offer is kind of a cool thing, coming from a small business owner and all. The only way to really start up a new business is by being raised up with it, just like my father. This will also make AHA more of a college prep experience. Just a few things to think about I guess. There are good things and bad things. It’s about 50/50

  2. Pingback: Give to the Max Day: Academy of Holy Angels | Laptop Ginger

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