Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Local Catholic Schools to Close...

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, of which my parish is a part, has been investigating a number of ways to consolidate Catholic elementary school operations. Their criteria for doing so is based upon projections of students now through 2013, projected school surplus/deficits through 2011 as well as regional demographics and other miscellaneous criteria. The Diocese made it's draft proposals available on Monday, January 11. Here is their press release (which is never a good idea with draft proposals)...

Diocese Announces 29 Regional School Reconfiguration Proposals

As president of each parish corporation, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has asked that a diocesan wide strategic planning process, that would ensure the long term stability of
Catholic schools in the diocese, be undertaken. The Diocesan Reconfiguration Committee (DRC) submitted its twenty-nine (29) regional proposals to ensure the
long term vitality and strength of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn. The process entitled “Preserving the Vision” was initiated by the (DRC) in the beginning of September. It has involved the unprecedented collaboration and input of parents, teachers, principals, Parish and community leaders, pastors and Diocesan employees.
The twenty-nine (29) regional proposals, which will become the roadmap, is to be implemented over the course of five years and will impact every school in the Diocese. “I am committed to ensuring that our Catholic Schools are accessible geographically and financially to the people of our Diocese. When we determined that our schools are operating at only 85% of capacity it became clear that we had to consider why this was happening and how we might reverse the trend” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Bishop Frank Caggiano, Vicar General and Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Catholic School Support Services, lead the effort to undertake a study of each Catholic school in Brooklyn and Queens. “The DRC has also proposed a model for revenue sharing. The willingness of the pastors of our Diocese and their cooperation on the proposed new tax that will raise $3 million in new revenues for our schools is a sign of the Churches continued commitment to Catholic education.” said Bishop Frank Caggiano. He continued, “…at the outset we believed that this process had to be comprehensive and inclusive. Over the course of several months we compiled the best possible data from many different sources. We were determined to engage all parties with an interest in Catholic Schools to share that data and our analysis.”

The proposal moves all schools towards the adoption of a two-tiered governance model. Under this model, pastors of parishes aligned with an Academy are members of the Corporation with particular responsibility for the spiritual care of faculty, students and families. A Board of Directors composed of lay-leaders with specific competence is responsible for the fiscal oversight and governance of the new school.

It is initially proposed that eleven (11) schools in the Diocese close at the conclusion of the 2008-2009 school year. Schools recommended for closure are: Flatbush Catholic Academy (Bk), St. Vincent Ferrer (Bk), Most Precious Blood (Bk), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Bk), Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Bk), Our Lady of Angels (Bk), St. Anthony of Padua (Qns), St. Benedict Joseph Labre (Qns), St. Catherine of Sienna (Qns), St. Aloysius (Qns) and Blessed Sacrament (Qns).

It is initially proposed that nine (9) schools merge and three (3) new schools be created. In the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn, it is proposed that Immaculate Heart of Mary (Bk) and Holy Name (Bk) merge and form one school with a single campus to be located at Prospect Park West. In Flushing, it is recommended that three (3) schools, St. Michael, St Ann, Mary’s Nativity merge to form one (1) school with one (1) campus. The school will be located at the St. Mary Nativity site. The four (4) Williamsburg schools are recommended to merge in 2010-2011. The number of sites is to be determined by the Board of Directors following a consultation process. These schools are Northside Academy, St. Stanislaus Kostka Ss. Joseph and Dominic Academy, St. Nicholas.

Mary, Gate of Heaven (Qns) is invited to adopt academy status prior to the 2009-2010 academic year. It is the conviction of the committee that this will strengthen and ensure continued vitality for the school.

It is initially proposed that the three (3) schools close, and then reopen at their same site as an Academy. It is our hope that they will be able to achieve academy status prior to the opening of the 2009 – 2010 academic year. Each of the schools in this category faces unique challenges. These schools are: Our Lady of Grace (Qns), St. Anastasia (Qns), Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Qns).

A special task force has been created to explore the creation of a new academy at St. John the Baptist, (Bk).

In offering these twenty-nine regional proposals Bishop Caggiano remarked “We are confident that as a result of this process our schools will have more resources to insure that children have greater access to Catholic education. Our schools will be better able to meet the diverse and changing needs of students and parents and, we will provide thriving Catholic schools that are better able to offer teachers and staff
competitive compensation and benefits while remaining vibrant institutions for generations to come.”

I am close to the situation at one of the schools marked to close and reopen as an Academy. I can tell you that the present proposal is very confusing to staff and administrators.

While I do agree that some work has to be done to ensure that Catholic Elementary education remains a priority, one has to wonder if the Church will remain viable if young people are not strongly educated in the faith. More to come on this topic...

1 comment:

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