Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Meetings at St.Jude and St. Catherine

So, here is what I can tell you about the meeting on Tuesday night at St. Jude's from my sources:

  1. Fr. Hines stated that no decision has been made regarding the school. Personally, I believe that statement because there is nothing in writing. However, the general feeling was that this was a done deal -- St. Jude's would merge with St. Catherine's -- especially from the fact that later in the meeting the participants were told that the school would remain open.
  2. A representative of the Archdiocese was there by the name of Tom. Unfortunately, neither could tell me if it was Tom Duffy or Tom Burnford (Sec. of Education). My sources felt he was quite standoffish. He stated that the Archdiocese cannot assist the school but will help though the tuition assistance program, which has increased from $2mil. to $4mil. (This was reported in the Catholic Standard a while back.)
  3. The school was in debt of $400,000 due to the difference between tuition ($6150) and actual cost per student ($7700). My question is: Did this happen overnight or was this a couple of years in the making. It seems hard for me to believe that this suddenly took place overnight. And, if this was taking place over the last few years, then why did the audits of the archdiocese not pick this up? Or did they not conduct audits?
  4. Tom was asked why the Archdiocese did not help to market Catholic schools more? His response was (are you ready for this!) it was the responsibility of each school to be responsible for this; the Archdiocese will do what it can. Now, have you noticed how much marketing is done for Catholic Cemeteries. I hear radio spots on a regular basis on WMAL. When was the last time you heard a radio spot for Catholic elementary schools. Probably never.
  5. St. Jude's went from an apx. 500 student body to apx. 240 today. In my opinion, the economy is not the main reason. The main reason is that a new elementary school was built just up the road. The families that would have gone to St. Jude's are now going there. Each year it adds an additional grade. Why did the Archdiocese allow this to happen? The only reason I can figure is that the school opened with not funds from the Archdiocese. It was all raised within the parish.
  6. The Archdiocese will eliminate the reduction in tuition for siblings unless they apply for tuition assistance to the Archdiocese. If the school wants to do it, fine.

Overall, both felt that this meeting was one that was really just to say "We met, we informed, and you figure it out." Typical of the last two rounds of closings.

I did not get much of a chance to speak with my contact at St. Catherine's but the Superintendent of Schools, Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill was in attendance to represent the Archdiocese. The school is in the red by a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Well, it seems that the Superintendent made it very clear that those in attendance should not believe anything on the blogs since they were all rumors.

So, let me close with this to the Superintendent. If you believe that anything on this blog is incorrect, they you, Ms. Gibbs or any representative from the Archdiocese are more than welcome to send me a note at I will publish your comments verbatim.

However, I did send a note to Ms. Gibbs requesting comment about St. Catherine's early last week but was told that there would be no response to anonymous emails. You did have your chance to put the rumors to rest.

UPDATE (5am): I have heard this from two separate people, that the third school is St. Michael's in Silver Spring. The enrollment has been low for a while. This some have speculated is the third school to close in Montgomery County and may be the source for the idea of Trinity.


Anonymous said...

The problems did not take place overnight. They did however take place at a time when the Archdiocese saw fit to spend 63million dollars on the ill fated Center City Consortium. That's right folks, the Archdiocese spent 63 million dollars on the Consortium only to see virtually all of the consortium schools close. Did anyone attending these meetings tonight ask whether or not we would like to have some of that money back. We might have been able to save some of our schools if the Archdiocese had not been so foolish in spending good money after bad on the consortium. It's time that those responsible for some of that bad spending be fired. Did you hear that Patricia Weitzel O'Neill? You should be fired along with Tom Burnford. The track record of these two individuals clearly shows they both should be FIRED!

Anonymous said...

It is disingenuous for the Archdiocese and the Pastors to point out the disparity between what it costs to educate a child and what tuition is. Each parish that has a school is supposed to subsidize Catholic education. The shortfall of $200K for St. Jude's and $400K for Catherine's is a failure of the parish to either properly manage its finances or raise enough its collections. The tuition covers what it is supposed to cover. Parishes in poorer or middle class neighborhoods have a harder time making up the difference because the size of their collections. It is that simple.

In terms of enrollment, St. Jude's began going to a one class per grade school because a third of incoming students ended up going to St. Patricks. What I find incomprehensible is that Tom Burnford said that each parish can open a school if they want to. It doesn't matter if it impacts the surrounding schools. Yet, we are all part of the same Archdiocesan system.

Frankly, I hate to say it but the Archdiocese of Washington has not made Catholic education a priority for quite some time. The Catholic Schools office truly needs to change because the folks in charge now have been an utter failure. 10% of the schools are closing this year alone. Schools will only be available for children who reside in rich parishes.

Anonymous said...

Known by a few that the $$ from various Parishes and from the upper at Archdicese has been .....

One can worship God or manmmon.
Which do you think it is?