Saturday, January 19, 2008

13 Schools Are Closing

Bishop Clark dropped his bombshell yesterday. 13 Monroe County Catholic schools are to close. Most of them are on the west side of the county, while most of the bishop's task force seems to be from the east side. Must be some sort of coincidence.

Anyway, there is a rather lively discussion of the situation currently taking place on the Democrat and Chronicle website. As I write this there are already some 110 comments posted, about 8 pages worth.

One common complaint is the lack of any hard data from the diocese. Most folks would like to see the financial data that was given to the task force, but one or two mentioned interest in enrollment information. I'm not in a position to do anything about the former, but I can do something about the latter.

I have a friend who is a Catholic school teacher. A couple of years ago he/she gave me a printout of a spreadsheet that was handed out at a faculty meeting. The printout listed Monroe County Catholic School enrollment data for each school for all academic years from 1995-95 through 2005-06. The printout is not marked "Confidential" or anything similar and my friend told me that nothing was said at the faculty meeting about it being privileged information.

I have just finished scanning the printout and it appears below. Perhaps the diocese could supply the data for the last 3 academic years and then we would all be up to date.


renchick said...

I've seen this at parent SAC meetings, but we were never given a copy. It was my understanding that it is almost top secret. Almost like the financial data.

Mike said...

If this were public school enrollment data it would be in the D&C every year.

I see no reason why similar Catholic school data should be treated as secret.

renchick said...

Either do I, but everything about how the schools are run is treated as secret. Where is the public budget info., the enrollment data, the public input, the public debate and approval of budget, etc. Everything is always top secret, which is what makes parents so mad.

Comparing your list, to the current list in the paper it seems the only criteria to close schools was enrollment. The schools with over 200 students were kept open. It seems to me, though, if the schools are that full, they do not have room to accept displaced students, and the abundance of new students expected from the decrease in tuition.

Mike said...

A meeting was held last night at Holy Cross school to discuss, basically, what the options are now. I didn't hear an attendance number, but I personally counted 123 people on the east side of the gym and the west side had about the same amount. Plus, there had to be another 50-75 in the bleachers. So 300 seems a safe attendance estimate.

Fr. Wheeland (pastor) and Rebecca Maloney (principal) shared more info than I recall reading or hearing elsewhere.

The task force, as we already know, presented several options to the bishop. They were, essentially, to close anywhere from from 9 to 13 schools. The main goal was to end up with every school that was to stay open essentially at the maximum enrollment its building would allow.

It is abundantly clear that, were every student currently enrolled in the 13 schools to be closed to transfer to the 11 to stay open, the system could not handle the load. History, however, says that will not happen. In the past only about 40% actually transferred when their original school was closed.

The bishop, in essence, made a guesstimate than only about 40-50% of the currently affected students would actually transfer. If that proves true, then the 11 spared schools, along with the new junior highs the various high schools are planning, should be able to handle all wishing to enroll.

Holy Cross is urging all its parents to register their kids at a new Catholic school once enrollment opens. The feeling is that if enough parents all over Monroe County do the same, the bishop will be forced to let more schools stay open to accommodate all those wishing a Catholic education.

Were this to fail I don't believe many of the Holy Cross parents would quit. While both Fr. Tom and Mrs. Maloney said that they could not personally get involved in anyting without the bishop's approval, most of the parents do not seem to share their reservations.

During an open mike session many parents mentioned going the Archangel route, should all else fail. Each time they were greeted by loud applause.

I talked with several folks I know and a few I met for the first time after the meeting. I can tell you that there is an awful lot of anger in that group that is in the process of turning into an awful lot of determination.

Although I'm in my 4th year teaching religious ed there, I am actually a new parishioner, so it's kind of hard for me to get a feel for just how far these folks will actually be willing to go. But I do know that many dozens of those families have been in the Charlotte area for generations, have gone to Holy Cross Church, have married their sons and daughters to the daughters and sons of other Holy Cross families, and have all sent there kids to Holy Cross School.

In essence, it is one very large, tightly-knit, extended family with an aweful lot of capable folks ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes.

And so I certainly would not bet against Holy Cross staying open in one way or another.

renchick said...

They are practically guaranting that 50% of people will leave catholic schools because we all know there is not room for all of us. I am a parent at St. Charles and we went through this before. We are participating with Holy Cross to try to keep schools open. Since people want to stay in the same area, most of Holy Cross and Catherine McAuley would go to MOS. The current 160 at Holy Cross and 94 at Catherine McAuley will not fit at MOS. All of the parents at Catherine McAuley want to keep their kids in Catholic school. Because of the way the bishop and the diocese handle these decisions, everyone is so mad that he is going to lose more than the schools. If you want to know why mass attendence is down, this is one big reason. 90% of the families currently enrolled would have stayed for next year if schools were not closed. More families could have been added if the tuition was lowered without closing schools. If there is any increase in enrollment due to lowered tuition, where are they going to go. It now seems enrollment will be based on a "lottery" of first come, first served. Great way to minister! Most parents do not want their children is schools that are at capacity. That means 30 students per class.

Mike said...

I mentioned Nikki Rudd's Wednesday interview with Fr. Hart and Lisa Passero on the D&C forum.

I just put up a new post here on Fr. Hart's seeming attempt to blame the parents for not knowing their schools were in trouble. Also, I'm now doing some research that looks like it will blow his "All The Catholics Are Moving South So Don't Blame The Bishop" explanation out of the water.

Not only are these people arrogant, but it also looks like they might be fudging their data.

DOR is losing 3.5 to 4.0% of its Mass attendees every year. Before Sr. Mary Hatchet-Lady introduced her "reforms", MCCS was also losing 3.5 to 4.0% enrollment per year. Could be a coincidence, but I'm very suspicious of coincidences.

Meanwhile, DOR's total population (Catholic and non-Catholic) has been constant over the last 6 years, while the data I've found so far indicates that DOR has been reporting a drop in total Catholics of about 1.5% per year over roughly the same period. Something just doesn't add up here. Why would more Catholics than non-Catholics be heading out of state?

But back to your comment: Flooding the MCCS system with lots more transfers than they were counting on is a great idea. When MOS has a waiting list of 200 or so the bishop should see that he really blew it. (But don't hold your breath waiting for him to admit it.)

Fr. Hart also said that the MCCS will definitely not run any of the to-be-closed schools in the future. But he also would not commit to allowing any school to be run independently. All he would say is that they would "listen to" and "explore" any plans that are submitted.

How reassuring.