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The Ave Herald

Serving the community of Ave Maria, Florida


Diocese of Venice Taking Over Donahue Academy

The Diocese of Venice will be taking over the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy which has been challenged in recent years by high staff turnover, declining enrollment and a lawsuit by a former board member over the university's stewardship of the k-12 school in Ave Maria.

AMU and the diocese announced the purchase of the school in separate news releases Friday, saying the purchase will be completed by June 30, 2017. Included is the 48,000-square-foot building and its 10.56 acres of property. No purchase price was disclosed.

"The Academy will be fully integrated into the Diocese of Venice, which maintains high academic standards for its Catholic Schools," said Bishop Frank Dewane.

The purchase of the school by the diocese caught most residents of Ave Maria by surprise and appeared to come together quite quickly. Three weeks earlier, AMU President Jim Towey and Donahue board chairman Michael Schwartz addressed parents about their future plans for the school.

Donahue has been beset by a number of challenges recently. The school's enrollment has been declining, the school has had four different headmasters in the last four years and has lost a number of its staff and faculty.

At the end of March, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist announced that they were ending their relationship with Donahue. The order had a convent in Ave Maria and nuns had taught at Donahue since the school opened in the summer of 2007.

Last summer, former Donahue board member Brian Lawe filed a lawsuit alleging that Ave Maria University improperly controlled the Donahue board and that consequently the board had not always acted in the best interests of the Donahue Academy. The lawsuit was progressing with immediate next steps being depositions of Mr. Towey and Mr. Schwartz.

Mr. Lawe declined to make any comment on the status of the lawsuit or any role it may have played in the sale of the school to the diocese.

The purchase comes four months after the university sold its iconic oratory in the Ave Maria town center to the diocese for $8 million.

Most residents of Ave Maria seem to applaud the Donahue purchase, with several sending emails to The Ave Herald saying they welcomed the announcement as good news. "There are a lot of happy parents in this town today," said one parent of a former Donahue student.


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