St. Jerome Regional School presented a program Wednesday morning as part of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce's first breakfast mixer for the year.

Linda Yulanavage, executive director for the Tamaqua Area Chamber, welcomed a crowd of 40 at the mixer, held at the Tamaqua Elks Lodge. The mixer was co-sponsored by St. Jerome's School and Heisler's Cloverleaf Dairy.

Mary Ann Mansell, principal at St. Jerome's, introduced representatives of the school, including Mary Beth Klein, first grade teacher; Ann Ostergaard, a member of the SJRS Home and School Association; and John Mayernik, a member of the school's advisory board.

Also in attendance was Barbara Ann Shotwell of the Diocese of Allentown Office of Stewardship and Development, who spoke about Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and how it can be used to benefit Catholic schools such as St. Jerome's.

Mayernik said that St. Jerome's School, located at 250 West Broad Street, was founded in 1919 and currently has 148 students in Kindergarten through eighth grade. The school's faculty has over 200 years of educational experience, an average of 26 years for each teacher.

"We are members of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce and happy to be in the Tamaqua area," said Mayernik, who said the school provides an educational alternative for those who are seeking such an option for their children.

In addition to its regular curriculum, the students at St. Jerome's participate in a number of activities, including a Prayer Line in which they prayer for intentions called into the school. "That takes our faith out into our community," related Mayernik.

The school's Kindergarten students visit the nearby Tamaqua Area Adult Day Care Center, located in the basement of Calvary Episcopal Church, on a monthly basis, as well as participating in monthly mission projects, decorating the Tamaqua ABC Hi-Rise, marching in the Veterans Day parade, making holiday cards for shut-ins, and singing Christmas carols in the downtown during the holidays.

Mayernik, whose son is an eighth grade student at St. Jerome's, explained that the school helps alleviate the tax burden on Tamaqua residents. He said the cost to educate one student in the Tamaqua Area School District is $9,311 per year. That means St. Jerome's is saving the taxpayers $1.3 million per year, based on its 148 students.

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit program is a way for businesses to donate to parochial schools and pay fewer tax dollars as a result.

"The program takes state money and can have it directed to St. Jerome's," said Mayernik.

The EITC program allows for a 75 percent tax credit, up to $300,000 for a tax year, and up to 90 percent if a business agrees to provide the same amount for two consecutive years.

Shotwell is the administrator for the Eastern Pa. Scholarship Foundation (EPSF), which directs EITC funds to schools in the diocese.

"All tax credit donations are funneled through EPSF," said Shotwell. "We take no educational costs and guarantee 100 percent of the contributions made arriving at St. Jerome's. You can keep your tax money here in Tamaqua rather than Harrisburg."

Shotwell said any business can participate in EITC except for sole proprietorships. A one page application is filled out and sent to the Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for approval, and businesses would have 60 days from that point to make their contributions.

For more information, contact Shotwell at (610) 871-5200, extension 244 or bshotwell@allentowndiocese.org.