Milford’s Lauralton Hall High School faces financial crisis because of mismanagement

Elizabeth Miller

Elizabeth Miller

Lauralton Hall Catholic Girls’ High School is grappling with a dire financial crisis that an audit at the end of the 2017 school year revealed was caused by “serious management issues that have caused a serious, near-term cash shortfall,” the school’s president, Elizabeth A. Miller, told the Register Friday through via email.

But Miller said the school’s board members, faculty, staff, alumnae, parents, and friends have begun “stepping up,” with donations that reached $1 million as of Friday, a spokeswoman for the school said.

“We are both humbled and encouraged by their generosity,” Miller said in the email Friday.

The school also cut costs and enhanced financial oversight.

The “Lauralton Loyalty Appeal” has set a goal of raising $2,250,000.

Sources close to the school who did not want to be identified said without those donations, the school’s ability to finish this school year was in jeopardy, but Miller didn’t directly answer that question.

Lauralton, a Catholic, college-preparatory high school — the first in Connecticut and among the first established in the United States — also known as The Academy of Our Lady of Mercy, is rooted in the Sisters of Mercy tradition of being the bearers of mercy to those in need.

Miller is new to the job this year.

She said that, in addition to the loyalty appeal, several changes have been made to “help address this temporary but serious problem.”

Miller wrote: “We have new leadership in place as well as systems and controls to better manage our finances and our budget. We have found ways to make our school more efficient and have already made significant cuts to our budget without impacting the quality of our program. We have also enhanced oversight to ensure that expenses are properly reported and recorded. And we have streamlined fundraising with a new focus on efficiency and efficacy.”

Miller wrote that the school can “successfully manage through and beyond this unfortunate circumstance with support from everyone.”

Asked whether it was true the school is at risk of closing by end of the year, Miller wrote, “We took the necessary and ambitious step of reaching out to our community with the Lauralton Loyalty Appeal to help ensure that Lauralton Hall will continue to provide young women with the high-quality educational experience our students currently enjoy for many years to come. The early results of our appeal show strong support and are very promising.”

Miller said an audit and financial review have “provided the information we need to determine what happened and to identify and remedy the management issues.”

Asked about claims by alumni sources whether Lauralton has no operating credit left, Miller said Lauralton Hall has a relationship with a bank, but, “At this time, our short-term cash need required us to reach out to our community for additional support in order to successfully manage through and beyond this unfortunate circumstance.”

She emphasized that money isn’t “missing,” but financial review for fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 revealed “serious management issues that have caused a serious, near-term cash shortfall.”

The appeal letter begins by praising the “loyal” and “generous” Lauralton Hall community, and outlines student endeavors and capital improvements.

Then the letter states: “At the same time, we have difficult news to share with you.”

The letter then states: “We can successfully manage through and beyond this unfortunate circumstance with support from everyone.”

The letter goes on to state: “All of us who are involved with Lauralton on a daily basis believe in the priceless value of a Lauralton education and the immeasurable benefit of teaching in the Catholic tradition while instilling Mercy values in our students.”

The appeal continues to state that with all the contributions from the board, trustees and staff, “all of this is not enough to meet short-term cash needs.”

The appeal letter ends: “Lauralton needs you now more than ever.”