Northside Catholic School makes a smooth merger


Last March when Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese announced that St. Cyril of Alexandria and Cardinal Wright Regional elementary schools would merge, feelings were mixed and the new school didn’t even have a name chosen.  

But at the beginning of November, the newly merged and newly named Northside Catholic School finished its first quarter in St. Cyril’s old building in Brighton Heights with minimal complications say administrators and parents. 

“From my perspective, the children have come together very well. It’s been very good,” said Northside Catholic School Principal Peg Bookser.

Northside Catholic School is now the only remaining Catholic elementary school on the Northside since St. Cyril and Cardinal Wright merged because of budget cuts and low enrollment. 

Father Kris Stubna, secretary for Catholic education, said that the name was picked in order to identify with the community.

“[It’s] the only remaining Catholic school on the Northside. We wanted the school to be viewed as a resource to the community.”

In March, when the announcement of the school merger was made, feelings were mixed in regards to the changes. Despite this, Stubna believes the year has been off to a positive start. 

One reason for the positive start at the new school is the previously existing relationship that St. Cyril and Cardinal Wright. 

“That relationship has been there for years,” said Bookser. 

Students at St. Cyril were able to participate in the football program that Cardinal Wright provided, as their own school did not have one, so some of the students were already acquainted with one another prior to the merger.

The students from Cardinal Wright Regional were moved to St. Cyril of Alexandria’s building, due to further improvements that would need to be done to the Cardinal Wright’s building, including roof reparations. 

The Cardinal Wright building in Allegheny West is now being used to house various organizations including youth groups.  

The school believes one major positive that came from the merger is the school’s opportunity to make significant improvements to their education system. Technology, now a major part of any classroom, will be able to be improved with a more stable financial situation brought about by the merger. 

“Improving technology is a priority at Catholic schools,” says Stubna.  

The school is now integrating smart boards and improving the quality of computer labs.

Last year, prior to the merger, both schools were given grants needed to improve technology. The stimulus package is now going to improving the infrastructure of the school to better accommodate the technology at the school.

Enrollment at Northside Catholic is no longer the issue that it was when the schools were separated. Previously, St. Cyril had a student enrollment of 105, Cardinal Wright had 154. Currently, Northside Catholic has a total of 203 students. 

The merger was successful in terms of maintaining students. Only three students from St. Cyril left the district, and Cardinal Wright retained about 50 percent of its students.

When the merger was first announced, some parents said they felt “stuck” sending their students to the new school. At the end of the first quarter, however, parents seem much more positive about the change.

Gretchen Marker, who was a parent at St. Cyril, said that the merger “went really well.”

“Whenever you have double the kids and changes in the staff, there are going to be kinks. [The school] has handled it really well.”

The kids, she said, have adjusted well to their new environment. 

“[We’ve had a] very positive start to the school year. I plan on going to Mass in November to bless both the building and the remainder of the school year.”

Karin Baker is a student at the University of Pitssburgh. She has been a resident of the city of Pittsburgh for four years.

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