Nazareth High School saved — with Martha Stewart money!

Officials have decided to close 50-year-old Nazareth High School in Flatbush, citing declining enrollment and financial trouble.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Nazareth High School has been saved — and it has Martha Stewart Living to thank for its survival.

Sharon Patrick, the former CEO of the lifestyle guru’s magazine and television empire and the aunt of a teacher at the embattled 50-year-old Catholic institution, offered Nazareth High School a $500,000 loan, allowing the school to meet fundraising goals set by the Brooklyn Diocese before it could be allowed to remain open, school guidance counselor Nancy Robert said.

“We are just very, very happy,” said Roberts, who led the effort to keep Nazareth open. “The board came through and has been working on the development of the school’s business plan.”

The Diocese demanded that Nazareth enroll at least 80 students for the fall semester — the school ultimately enrolled 81 — create a sustainable business plan for the future, and raise over $700,000, most of which came from Patrick’s loan.

Attempts to reach Patrick were unsuccessful by press time.

Patrick is very close to Stewart and drew up the business plan that turned the one-time caterer into a household name. Patrick ran Stewart’s company in 2004 after the decorating icon was sentenced to five months in prison for lying to detectives investigating claims that she had dabbled in insider trading.

Martha Stewart’s Living boasted a magazine circulation of more than two million in 2011.

Once Nazareth High School reached its goals, the Diocese gave its new principal four years to show that it could be solvent, Robert said.

The remarkable turnaround furthered the Cinderella story surrounding the small school, where 98 percent of its student body graduates and 96 percent of its graduates attend college.

The school, which counts actor William Forsythe and former Knicks player Stewart Granger among its alumni, staged a walkathon, held a bake sale and sold T-shirts, but raised a little over $200,000 — not enough to pay off its $500,000 debt to the Brooklyn Diocese, according to the New York Post.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) said he was impressed with how the community joined together to save the school.

“For the many who thought its closure was ensured, this is proof positive of the power people possess when they band together and are committed to the right cause,” he said.

After the six week roller-coaster ride where they didn’t know if the school would be open in September, Nazareth teachers say they’re glad they can finally focus on what’s important: educating students.

“It’s been very stressful,” said Monique Fisher, a math teacher at the school and a 1982 graduate. “Now I can finally go back to teaching.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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