Some alumni opposed to Kiski Prep High School accepting girls

For the first time in the school’s history, Kiski Prep High School in Saltsburg will be accepting girls into its program next fall. It’s always been an all-boys school. The administration approved accepting girls earlier this month.

Some alumni say they’re still against this idea. They’re raising money in hopes the school will reverse course.

Matthew Marcenelle remembers how he felt when he heard his alma mater -- Kiski Prep -- would be accepting girls into its program.

“Shocked, first of all,” he told Channel 11′s Andrew Havranek.

Marcenelle is the vice chair of the Friends of Kiski Prep Foundation. It started just two months ago as a booster club for Kiski Prep’s wrestling program. That changed when they found out the administration was considering accepting girls into the school.

“Before we had done anything, we shifted gears and made it the Friends of Kiski Prep Foundation,” Marcenelle said.

Marcenelle said the school didn’t consider any input from alumni before making the decision to accept two dozen girls into the program next fall. He said alumni are willing to help fundraise to help the shortfalls the school is facing.

“And we showed what we could do if they did enlist our help by raising over $530,000 in four days, Andrew,” Marcenelle told Havranek. “Four days.”

Havranek reached out to the Kiski School for comment regarding the foundation’s fundraising.

In a statement, Christopher Brueningsen, Head of School at The Kiski School said:

“In recent years, maintaining Kiski as an all-boys school has required substantial fundraising due to declining interest in single-sex boarding schools, rising financial aid costs, and a post-pandemic drop in international student enrollment. Our “For the Boys” campaign, launched in 2020, has raised significant funding for operational support, and our pressing financial needs were communicated in dozens of donor appeals to alumni.

We sincerely respect the effort of the “Friend of Kiski Prep” group to raise money to keep Kiski an all-boys school. Our understanding is that their “$500,000 raised” is a conditional pledge for $50,000 per year over a period of 10 years, not a cash donation of $500,000 that has been received. Since the pandemic, Kiski has been raising money at a rate of close to $2 million per year to maintain our all-boys boarding model. Fundraising at this pace is simply not sustainable for a school our size.

A Board of Trustees Task Force, formed last year, explored a variety of modifications to Kiski’s business model including enrollment reduction, school mergers, and the introduction of a junior boarding program. Extensive analysis produced financial models that objectively affirmed the necessity of transitioning to co-education for Kiski’s continued growth and success.”

Marcenelle confirmed that is the case, saying those are the guidelines from one donor under the school’s current administration. He said it changes if the administration changes.

“It’s a start,” Marcenelle said. “It’s a show that we can raise money, a lot of money, and by the way, the bulk of that amount of money was from a non-Kiski alum.”

He also said with four other co-ed boarding schools in the area -- the Kiski School accepting girls is a bad business decision and staying true to the school’s founding framework -- being an all-boys school, is important.

“For Kiski, that’s an expert for educating boys, they’re going to exit a space where they own the space, and they’re going to enter into a new space where they don’t have the expertise that the other schools have,” Marcenelle said.

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