Rumors of buyer swirl over school


Beloved St. Joseph Catholic School hasn’t even locked its doors yet and rumors of a possible buyer are already swirling around its campus at 1300 Bridger Ave.

The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas’ recent decision to discontinue classes at the school, which opened in 1948, continues to generate a groundswell of emotion from current and former students as well as parents who believe they will have great difficulty placing their children in an affordable faith-based school in the coming year.

Parents on Thursday relayed sightings of potential buyers on campus. A group represented in part by former Congressman Jim Bilbray toured the facility but found its size unsuitable, school administrator Father Dave Casaleggio said Monday. He downplayed any substantial interest in the purchase of the property, including rumors of an impending offer from Zappos.

Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin is a 1957 graduate of St. Joseph and represents the area. He said he knew of no interested buyers for the property and added that the local real estate community and city economic development officials were unaware that the school was closing. A county records check reveals no remarkable postings or sales in the neighborhood.

But Coffin also added, “I love the old school. I’m sick about it closing. I wish they could keep it open.”

Parents and former students, meanwhile, continue to pour their hearts out about the school they’ve grown to love.

One parent, Stephanie Logan, wrote a long and emotional email that revealed the depth of her attachment and commitment to the school, where she and her husband sent their daughter and son.

She closed with, “My children will weather this storm and we are fortunate to have secured enrollment this week at St. Viator’s school. What still makes me sad is that Richie and Grace will no longer have the same educational experience. St. Joseph’s a unique place where the eighth-graders mentor and care for the kindergartners, teachers know every student’s name, and the kids are genuinely happy to be there.”

She signed off as a “Proud St. Joseph’s School parent.”

Former student Mark Sugden offered an affectionate glimpse of St. Joseph past, which I’ve edited for brevity:

“On my first day at St. Joseph’s Elementary School, my 6th Grade teacher, a very kindly Sister Barbara, directed me to sit at a wooden flip top desk with an ink well. My 7th grade teacher, Sister Thecla, was a great lady, a stickler for penmanship and a no-nonsense disciplinarian. She would bust a wooden cigar box over your head if you stepped out of line. No way would you go home and whine to mommy or daddy unless you wanted worse.

“My 8th grade teacher was Sister Coleman, the principal. If you got into a scrap on the playground, she would drag out a cardboard box full of over-sized boxing gloves. You and your adversary would lace up, while the other kids formed a large circle. Then, you both would swing it out until you were exhausted, gladly shake hands and it was over. Again, no whining, no ACLU, no attorneys.”

Sugden, who went on to graduate from college and serve at Metro for 30 years, said he has “many fond memories and gratitude for a well-rounded scholastic and spiritual education.”

Although it’s fading into Las Vegas past, for 65 years St. Joseph school has helped to generate a genuine sense of community in a town not known for its connectedness.

Meanwhile, some parents are still looking for answers.

“We want to do everything we can to help make this a smooth transition for current students and their parents,” Casaleggio said.

The diocese can start by quelling the rumors and making its school account transparent and available. They deserve no less.

Those parents have entrusted administrators not only with their children’s academic futures, but their spiritual futures as well.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.