Thursday, May 6, 2010

"The genius of Catholic schools"

Recognizing that the time for "business as usual" is over for its Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of New York is about to launch Pathways to Excellence, a strategic plan "designed to assist elementary schools throughout the Archdiocese."

In an op-ed piece in the New York Post, Archbishop Timothy Dolan writes (my emphasis),

As the plan begins to take hold, it is likely that some schools may merge and some may close -- and, Please God, new schools will open, as well.

Know that the difficult and painful decisions of this sort will never be made lightly, as we are all very aware that school closings have a profound impact on the students and their families. Such decisions will only be made after long and careful consideration, with plenty of opportunity for input and discussion by all who have an interest in that school.

Part of the genius of Catholic schools is the involvement of the entire local community -- parents, parishioners, pastors, principals, teachers, benefactors and civic leaders -- in the life of a school. We recognize that all of these stakeholders must be involved in any decision to merge, close or open a school.

This is a far cry from what happened here in DOR in 2007-08.  When Bishop Clark decided that the financial situation of Monroe County's Catholic schools required serious attention, he gave little, if any, thought to what Archbishop Dolan rightly calls "the genius of Catholic schools." 

Instead, Bishop Clark assembled a group of 22 cronies, sent them off to secretly review data which remains undisclosed to this day, and told them to come up with a fix to the problem. As far as can be determined this committee never met with a single parent, parishioner, pastor, principal, teacher, benefactor or civic leader, thus showing their - and the bishop's - utter contempt for all those very genuine stakeholders in our Catholic schools.

And, just to rub a little salt into still-open wounds, Bishop Clark then let teams from five parishes build up false hope while investing hundreds of man-hours devising plans to operate their schools independently, knowing full well that he would axe any plans they presented - no matter how excellent - as potential threats to his cronies' plan.

The Archdiocese of New York will almost certainly have to close some of its Catholic schools.  No one will be happy about it and some are sure to disagree with the decision to close particular schools.  But at the end of the day there won't be anyone who can claim that they did not have input into those decisions.  There won't be anyone who can claim that their role as a stakeholder wasn't recognized and respected.

Archbishop Dolan gets it.  Bishop Clark couldn't care less.

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