Centralizing Catholic schools for strength

Centralizing Catholic schools for strength

“Archdiocese tries new tack on schools”

In the first test of a new strategy for revitalizing urban Catholic schools, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley announced yesterday that, with the help of wealthy donors and a local college, he will replace the last three parochial schools in this city with one regional school located in two refurbished buildings.

Archdiocesan officials said the Brockton effort—an attempt to respond to declining enrollment, inadequate financing, and older buildings—is a model that the church also looks to implement in Dorchester and Lowell.

The model, in which a regionalized Catholic school will be governed by a local board of trustees approved by O’Malley, is a break with the decentralized system of parish-financed parochial schools that has characterized Catholic education in much of the United States for more than a century.

The figure I’ve heard bandied about is that the minimum enrollment for a viable Catholic school in this area is 180. When you drop below that number, the tuition is no longer enough to guarantee a certain quality of education, thus driving more students away. Unfortunately, too many Catholic parochial schools in older parts of the archdiocese are falling below those numbers. The new plan will allow them to consolidate for added vitality and strength. It’s unfortunate that parish-based, locally controlled schools are being replaced in these areas because there is value in that, but this is better than the alternative which is no schools.

“The schools have low enrollment and don’t have enough resources, but we are confident that by bringing the schools together and sharing resources and by fund-raising and marketing together, that we’re going to be able to strengthen the enrollment and to do the kind of staff development that we need to do and to have the facilities that are modern and with the kind of technology and the other needs that education has today,” the archbishop said .

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli