Leaders of the school asked for the loan, and made it clear that the school’s future was in peril without it. Menaul is a 122-year-old college-preparatory private school with about 350 students, about 60 percent them students of color, many of whom are Hispanic and Native American. But the school is struggling to support itself, despite increasing tuition — and has sought loans of $450,000 from the PC(USA) and $200,000 from the Southwest Synod to keep things afloat while it tries to cut costs, raise funds from private donors and figure out a plan for the future.
With the loans and another tuition increase, Michael Gaylor, head of Menaul School, predicts that enrollment will fall some but that Menaul will break even next year — but only barely. “The school had been losing cash, bleeding cash, from the early ’90s on,” Gaylor said during a General Assembly Council committee meeting. But Jim Collie, executive presbyter of Santa Fe Presbytery, who’s on the Menaul board, said the school has a new business plan, and “we feel confident that with your trust we can move into the future pretty boldly.”
The council approved the seven-year loan with no discussion. The loan agreement includes a series of stipulations — among them, that the Menaul School maintain accreditation and that the GAC regularly receive independent audit reports of the school.
Much of the time at the council meeting April 3-5 was spent considering the 2004 budget for the PC(USA) and continuing a self-assessment process for the council. But there was other business as well. The council:
o Responded to the session of Second church, Staunton, Va., which asked the council to suspend a boycott of Taco Bell that the General Assembly approved last summer in response to an overture from Tampa Bay Presbytery. Organizers hope the boycott will encourage Taco Bell to have conversations with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which represents farm workers who pick some of the tomatoes that Taco Bell uses, and who are working to win higher wages. Instead of suspending the boycott, the council voted to offer to initiate conversation with the Staunton session about the boycott and their concerns. The Staunton session had written that the boycott will hurt local franchise owners and “will make employees at local Taco Bell restaurants economic hostages in a dispute they have no power to alter.” But Gregg Neel, a council member from Illinois, said the General Assembly instituted the boycott — so the council should follow the Assembly’s direction.
o Refused to follow a suggestion from John Detterick, the council’s executive director, that it meet next May to vote on the 2005 budget, instead of immediately before the 2005 General Assembly. Detterick wanted that schedule so the whole council would vote on the 2005 budget, rather than leaving that to the executive committee. But several council members said they think it’s important for the council to have a presence at the General Assembly meeting — as one member put it, “to see and be seen.”
o Decided to ask the General Assembly to call on Presbyterians to listen to the voices of partner churches regarding the crises in Iraq and other parts of the world. Those international church partners can inform U.S. Presbyterians on issues such as the plight of Christians in places such as Pakistan and Israel-Palestine, how U.S. actions are viewed in predominantly Muslim countries, and “the need for special prayer and concern for Christians who are identified with us as `American’ and therefore as substitute targets for anger and acts of violence against the U.S.,” according to a report from the council’s Worldwide Ministries Division Committee.