BELLEVILLE — Faculty members are gearing up fundraising efforts to buy Governor French Academy from its current stakeholders including Phil Paeltz, headmaster at the school, and his wife Myra Blackman, who hold a primary stake in the school.
Teacher Tony Meyer, 30, of New Athens, said he came up with the idea to form a faculty nonprofit organization in order to ensure the sustainability of the school following Paeltz' tenure.
"We wanted to make sure we had a structure in place so the school could continue to operate indefinitely," Meyer said Wednesday. "We thought this would be a really great way for faculty to still have a say on the operations of the school. It would allow us to run the school the way it always has."
Paeltz, 65, of Lebanon, opened the school 30 years ago in 1983 with just 12 high school students. Now, the academy located on West Main Street serves almost 200 kindergarten through 12th grade students. Paeltz said Wednesday he wanted to ensure a plan was in place to keep the school going after he dies.
The faculty corporation known as The College of Governor French is a nonprofit organization with 15 members. Once the sale goes through, Meyer, who serves as president of the nonprofit's board of directors, explained the operation of the Governor French Academy would fall under the nonprofit organization as opposed to its current for-profit model.
The College of Governor French still is working to raise the money needed to purchase the academy from Paeltz. Neither Meyer nor Paeltz would disclose the agreed upon price.
The faculty corporation is holding its first major fundraising event, an After Hours Auction, on April 20. The fundraiser, which will include raffles, silent and verbal auctions, will be held from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Bellecourt Manor in Belleville. Tickets cost $35 per person and include two drinks and appetizers. Tickets must be purchased by April 15.
In addition, Meyer said the faculty corporation is raising money through a Wall of Giving, where people who donate $100 or more to the academy receive a plaque on the wall.
Once finalized, the nonprofit College of Governor French would own the academy; the current stakeholders will own the building, which will be leased to the nonprofit; and Paeltz will remain the school's headmaster.
"I will continue as the head of the school as long as I want to be the head of the school," Paeltz said. "I don't plan to retire."
The academy informed parents about the plan for the faculty corporation to purchase the school, according to Paeltz.
Meyer said he hopes the College of Governor French will oversee the operation of the school by next school year. "We have been working very hard to put everything together," he said.
"It will be effective as soon as the teachers are able to pay for the operations," Paeltz said. "It could happen any time really."
The terms of the agreement between Paeltz and the College of Governor French are being reviewed by legal counsel, according to Meyer, who has been a full-time faculty member at the school since 2004.
He actually began working at the school in 2001 as a janitor while he earned his bachelor's degree. Meyer's 5-year-old daughter attends Governor French.
"I really believe in what we do," he said. "It's something that needs to be an option for many years to come. If the academy remains indefinitely, it will be a good option for people in the metro area looking for a college preparatory school."
For more information about the April 20 fundraiser, call Karen Meyer at 618-233-7542.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 618-239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.