This is the tenth and final article of a 10-part series that seeks to shed light on the tremendous things happening at Bishop Machebeuf High School. Links to previous stories are provided at the end of the article. For more information about Bishop Machebeuf High School or if you are interested in applying, please visit machebeuf.org.
As this series has revealed over the past few months, a lot has happened at Bishop Machebeuf High School: curriculum changes, leadership changes, and more. While many people were concerned about how these things might impact the school, the bottom line is that Bishop Machebeuf is doing well. Really, really well. The school has stabilized. The faculty is talented, dedicated, and united in its mission. The curriculum is strong, students are rising to the challenges, and parents see great things happening with their children. The significant factors contributing to this success are its people, the five-year plan, and partnerships.
When it comes to its people, there is no denying that President-Principal Dr. Tony Bonta has been instrumental over the past two years, and his contributions have been critical in laying the solid foundation currently in place at Bishop Machebeuf. Reflecting on his time in leadership, he said, “I am incredibly grateful for the warm welcome and the support that I’ve been given from Archbishop Aquila, Keith Parsons, Elias Moo, the Board of Members, Mrs. Annie (Schmitz) McBournie and the Schmitz Family Foundation, Mr. Norton Rainey, Mr. Joe Smith, and ACE Scholarships. In addition, I am filled with gratitude for our donors, stakeholders, faculty and staff, parents, families, and students. I have also been so impressed with how many alumni there are in this area and how involved they are in so many different ways. I have witnessed their school pride; they are making a difference in our community.”
While Dr. Bonta’s time at Bishop Machebeuf may have been shorter than many would have hoped, he leaves with a list of tremendous accomplishments in service to the school, setting it up for a bright future.
Mr. Erich Hoffer, who currently serves as principal of Christ the King Roman Catholic School, has been appointed as Dr. Bonta’s successor as Bishop Machebeuf’s next President. He will be completing his work at Christ the King at the end of the academic term and then will begin transitioning officially to the role of President over the summer.
Dr. Bonta expressed his confidence in passing the torch to Mr. Hoffer and has tremendous hope for Bishop Machebeuf in Mr. Hoffer’s capable hands. “Mr. Hoffer was the first to agree to be on the new Board of Trustees because he believes so strongly in what we’re doing here. He believes in Bishop Machebeuf’s mission, has a proven track record at the high school level, and is committed to comprehensive Catholic education and formation. He has a phenomenal love of students and student life– and fun! I think he will help take Bishop Machebeuf to the next level and create a vibrant Catholic high school environment. His relationship with the Archdiocese, his relationship with the other school principals, and his connections with families in the Denver community are all strong; he has the personal and professional charism to help Bishop Machebeuf become the school it is called to be, and I am very grateful for him. It is a natural transition for him to become our next leader.”
Together with the strong leadership team already in place at Bishop Machebeuf, Hoffer will further the high school’s mission of striving to form the hearts, minds, and souls of its students in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the living tradition of the Catholic Church.
Hoffer shared his hopes and aspirations for Bishop Machebeuf as the high school’s next President. “When I met with the students, I knew this is where God called me to be. It’s hard not to share their exuberance and their excitement! You pick up on that, and you feel that right away. I believe they need and deserve a beautiful Catholic education, and I think I’m in the right place at the right time with the opportunity to make that happen for them at such a critical junction in their lives. Elementary school is critical, but with high school, we’re talking about forming young men and women for a world they’re about to enter at a crucial time in their lives when things get really, really hard. Being a stabilizing force and helping them become the people God calls them to be is what I love about this opportunity. To do it in a way that prepares them for the rest of their lives, that’s what gets me fired up.”
Hoffer has nearly 20 years of combined experience as a teacher and administrator, with all but three years of it at the high school level. He has a proven track record, both in Mississippi and locally, of providing a Catholic education, rooted in the best of our tradition, to young men and women.
Bishop Machebeuf’s Five Year Plan
The five-year plan for Bishop Machebeuf will enable the high school to become financially independent from the Archdiocese of Denver, increase enrollment, and strengthen relationships with alumni and other stakeholders.
Contributing foremost to Bishop Machebeuf’s financial independence from the Archdiocese is its commitment to the mission and its steadfast support for the high school’s success. In addition to a generous $1.5 million investment from the Archdiocesan community, the Archdiocese forgave the remaining debt owed by Bishop Machebeuf, ensuring it has the level of support – including financial support – necessary to thrive.
“It is a holistic stewardship effort. Ultimately, I think that is the heart of this,” said Superintendent Elias Moo. “We can steward this mission, and by stewarding the mission, we are also stewarding the resources – capital and human – and stewarding the institution to allow the mission to flourish. There is real trust and confidence that if we are on mission and fulfilling the things that we spoke about in the first few articles of this series, the Lord is so generous that he provides in abundance to those faithful to him. I think that is a critical aspect of this.”
Moo recognized that, while relying entirely on God’s providence, those in leadership still have to do their part. “That is why we have this plan. That is why financial sustainability and increased enrollment are critical elements. As we continue to progress over these next few years, we won’t be talking about ‘stabilizing’ anymore. In five years, I see the community flourishing to a point where we will be asking, ‘How do we continue to grow this?’ because the program is producing tremendous results for the sake of the Lord’s rescue mission in the Church of Northern Colorado and the formation of our students.”
Bishop Machebeuf’s Focus on Increasing Enrollment
Part of Bishop Machebeuf’s financial independence depends on its success with admissions and increasing enrollment. Dr. Bonta expressed his optimism about the groundwork that has been laid and opportunities to increase enrollment in the future. There is growing strength in partnerships and positive relationships in the community. “Dakota Pesce, our Dean of Enrollment Management, has been able to build on the foundation laid by our prior admissions staff. There is more positive interest in our school. People are starting to see more and more what the real deal is here. Dakota has been able to bring that. She has an eye for, and an understanding of, the whole process and can look at things comprehensively.”
Pesce remarked that enrollment and opportunities to increase that enrollment at Bishop Machebeuf are moving in the right direction. “I have parents reaching out to me, asking what their next steps for enrollment are. We have sent out a lot of acceptance letters, a higher number of acceptances than I think any of us were expecting. We also have a lot of transfer students interested, which has been another wonderful surprise. So in addition to increasing our freshman class size from the last couple of years, we’re also hoping to add students to our rising sophomore and junior classes.”
Pesce attributes this increased interest in enrollment as due in large part to the value proposition of the school. “I think people see that there’s something truly special about Machebeuf. We have a strong faith life and student life, and paired with that is a rigorous academic curriculum: both the integrated humanities and the math and science. In addition, we have a Quest Bridge Scholar, and three of our students just received Daniels Fund Scholarships. Families, parents, and students are seeing these things at Machebeuf, and they are saying that they want to be a part of our community.”
Bishop Machebeuf’s continued work to connect with and nurture relationships with K-8 “feeder” schools is contributing to greater interest and will continue to build enrollment in the future. As principal of Christ the King, Hoffer established good, working relationships with the other principals at many nearby elementary schools, something he will bring with him to Bishop Machebeuf. “When you have a place like Bishop Machebeuf, that’s an amazing pull. It can be a big unifier of these separate communities coming together. We’re seeing a positive, upward interest in Bishop Machebeuf, which is good. I think continued growth is contingent on our relationships with those partner schools. Those relationships and interactions with families will be huge to draw students to Bishop Machebeuf. Being able to expose misconceptions that people have, dispel rumors, and move towards, ‘Here’s the truth. Here are the beautiful things happening. Here is the foundation that has been built. Do you want to be a part of building it to what God is calling it to be?’ So I’m excited about building those relationships and inviting people to be part of what’s happening.”
Hoffer credits the upward trend in interest in the school to the fact that the current leadership and administrators didn’t enter a “desperation” mode when things were at a critical decision point. “The trend is upward because we haven’t compromised our values, who we are, nor our mission. We’ve had direct and honest leadership coupled with all the good things already happening at the school. We are moving towards ‘This is who we are.’ and inviting families to participate joyfully. When people look at that, they will say, ‘There is something different going on there. How do I become part of that? How do I get involved with that?’.”
Relationships Increase Bishop Machebeuf’s Success
A major blessing to Bishop Machebeuf has been the partnerships with ACE Scholarships, which awarded $250,000 this year in tuition and school assistance, and the Schmitz Family Foundation, which provided $250,000 this year as part of a block grant to be used to strengthen marketing and communications. Part of the subsequent marketing and communications effort has included this ten-part Denver Catholic series in addition to partnerships with marketing and video companies to develop videos, marketing materials for admissions, and digital marketing for outreach to get Bishop Machebeuf’s name and story out in the broader community.
The Schmitz Family also faithfully supplies scholarships to families needing financial assistance. Hoffer says this partnership – and ones like it – make a huge difference to Bishop Machebeuf. “We are able to provide a Catholic education to anyone who desires it because of these partnerships. It’s critical to continue these relationships and show progress as evidence that those investments are being put to good use: academically and spiritually forming disciples. The more these things happen, the more outside partnerships we’ll be able to secure and the more opportunities we’ll be able to provide for our students.”
The final part of this five-year plan is to strengthen relationships with alumni and other stakeholders. According to Hoffer, “We invite those with a vested interest to be a part of our success. There has been a disconnect because of past wounds, but we are going to always be transparent about what’s going on. We will be working hard on communication and reaching out, inviting people into our mission, and sharing what our mission is. Once they see it and hear it, I think they will want to be a part of it. They’ll want to claim their identity as an alumnus/alumna proudly.”
Hoffer says they plan to provide opportunities and events to get together. “It won’t happen overnight, but we have ideas like ‘Pints with the President’ to invite people back in, and it will become self-evident that good things are happening at Bishop Machebeuf High School.”
God has plans for Bishop Machebeuf, for a future full of hope
The search for the school’s principal is already underway. A team of students, staff, and parents discussed key characteristics, dispositions, and attributes they’d like to see in a new principal. The information gathered at these listening sessions will allow the selection committee to understand what the community is looking for in their new leader. As of this writing, data has been compiled and shared with the search committee. The group is about to begin the process of actively interviewing candidates.
Mr. Hoffer reflected on the four pillars that support Bishop Machebeuf’s mission – Faith Life, Academics & Academic Support, Student Life, and Discernment. “I think with the four pillars built the way they are, excellence in one area is going to beget excellence elsewhere. If we have a vibrant student life that allows for discernment and builds on academics, we will create a holistic space. That is also what I was attracted to: holistic education. Our students have faculty and staff that love and care about them, that help them understand that God loves and cares about them and has a fantastic plan for their lives. That is exciting for me. I get fired up talking about it! We provide an amazing high school experience full of joy and fun, experiences and activities that don’t detract from God’s plan for our students. So again, I think excellence in all four pillars will get us to where we need to be.”
Referencing Jeremiah 29:11, Dr. Bonta offered a prayer for Bishop Machebeuf and its bright future. “As I make my departure – and as we approach the Easter season – I ask the Holy Spirit to bless this community now and always. My wish is that the Holy Spirit guides Bishop Machebeuf to become the school God wants it to be and provides it with students and families, stakeholders and donors, and loving, committed alumni. Because this community has all of that right here, the potential is phenomenal. I’m grateful to all who helped build a strong foundation and all my predecessors who helped get Machebeuf to where it is today, sixty years later. I am most proud of the team here who stepped up and helped lay this foundation and implement the vision of January 2020. When we were having times of transition last year, about 12+ faculty and staff members stepped up and really took the mission on and helped stabilize things, and now the school is moving forward to thrive. It’s been such a blessing to work with these people, my colleagues. I’m most proud, as well, of our students, the reinstitution of the theatre, the athletic accomplishments, the extracurricular accomplishments, and the faith of our students, faculty, and staff. Go Buffs!”
Hoffer’s vision for Bishop Machebeuf is that it would become like a city on a hill. “Dr. Bonta and his staff have done an awesome job getting Bishop Machebeuf ready to leap into the stratosphere. The foundation has been laid, and there is such opportunity. My vision for Bishop Machebeuf is to be that city on a hill where people look at it and say, ‘Wow. How do I become a part of that? There’s something different going on there.’ And if I didn’t think the basis for that was there already, I don’t know that I would have taken the job. God has laid out his path already. Success is going to happen; I truly believe that. We are getting the right people, resources, students, and families. Now, the work is in front of us.”
Explore the previous Bishop Machebeuf stories:
Part 1: Honoring the Past. Celebrating the Present. Engaging the Future.
Part 2: Forming Disciples of Christ
Part 3: A transformative education through Catholic Liberal Arts
Part 4: Dr. Bonta announces departure from Bishop Machebeuf High School; new president named
Part 5: Creating Vibrant Student Life
Part 6: Continuing a Legacy of Athletic Excellence
Part 7: Discerning life after high school and discovering God’s call to be extraordinary
Part 8: Celebrating a 60-year history of Alumni