Sunday, January 11, 2009

D&C's James Lawrence: MCCS has "new found economic stability"

Tmac has called my attention to a Friday evening post on the D&C's Editorial Blog. Put up by James Lawrence, Editor of the Editorial Page, the post (with a couple of typos corrected) reads:

Yesterday’s page one story about new found economic stability at Monroe County’s Catholic schools caught my eye.

The story stood out because just a year ago there was a tremendous public uproar about the diocese’s announced plan to close 13 elementary and middle schools to get rid of a $1.3 million deficit.

According to an audit completed last fall, the diocese’s Monroe County Schools System is now operating with balanced budgets. It wrote off fixed assets of $2 million. Deficit wiped out.

With 11 schools remaining and an enrollment of 3,732 students, the local Catholic school system has been certified as fiscally sound.

Sometimes in life you really do have to step back to move forward.

I posted a response on the Editorial Blog inviting Mr. Lawrence to come here (where there are no artificially imposed 1,000 character constraints) and discuss his comments. We'll see if he shows up.

In the meantime the following comes to mind.

First of all, we veteran victims of MCCS mismanagement have been down this "stability" road before so I can't see how anyone can blame us for being a bit skeptical, if not cynical. A couple of examples will make my point:

  • An April 12, 2001 story in the D&C quotes the chairwoman of the MCCS Board as saying, "In the last 10 years we've really stabilized the Catholic school system, and we need to take it to the next level."
  • A November 12, 2004 DOR press release quotes Bishop Clark as saying, “We really believe this [tuition] model will help preserve the treasure of Catholic education for future generations of families in our diocese."

Both of these quotes accompanied past Catholic school "mergers" and closings. After a while one learns not to pay any attention to either the MCCS or to DOR when they play the "stability card," no matter who they trot out to back them up.

Secondly, Bonadio & Co., LLC, the auditors for the MCCS, say absolutely nothing about the "stability" of the MCCS system going forward. Their report deals only with the MCCS income and expense statements for the 2007-08 fiscal year and the MCCS balance sheet as of June 30, 2008. Regarding these documents they say ,"In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of Monroe County Catholic Schools as of June 30, 2008."

Bonadio & Co. most certainly did not certify the MCCS as fiscally sound. To read that conclusion into their report is to turn that report into a fairy tale.

Whether or not the MCCS is, in Mr. Lawrence's words, "now operating with balanced budgets," or will be doing so at anytime in the future, remains to be seen. The auditors said nothing about this fiscal year's budget. Given the history of the MCCS, however, skepticism would seem prudent.

Their are other issues that Mr. Lawrence's post raises (such as the fact that the real reasons behind the "tremendous public uproar" had little to do with finances and much to do with past gross mismanagement and current deceit and outright lies), but I'm going to stop here for now.

Okay, Mr. Lawrence, it's your turn.

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