Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some thoughts on Catholic Education...

Last week, it was announced that the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese was stepping down.

For those of you who did not notice, there was real coordination between the Catholic Standard and Office of Communication. The Catholic Standard arrives in mailboxes for those who subscribe usually on Thursday. The announcement via Twitter (thanks Kat) went out Thursday about 11:30am, as well as, a press release. So, for those who received the Standard on Thursday (thanks Melvin, since I let mine lapse), it may have looked to many that this was sudden. (We know that this was probably in place for a week or so and that the story on the resignation was ready no later than Tuesday, so that it could be printed and mailed.)

By the way, have you noticed there has been no announcement in the Standard or from the Office of Communication that St. Michael's (Silver Spring) will either close or remain open. On parishioner has told me that the pastor and principal are fighting hard to keep it open. But I digress...

In addition, the story in the Standard does not talk at all about the Consortium or the closing of schools this year.

However, the story is not the coordination between the Standard and Office of Communication but the reasons behind it.

For the second major time in her tenure, there was a second round of Catholic Schools closing. Although not as bad as in Baltimore at one time, the possible closing of seven schools (three have been announced) is not something that is a gold star on your record.

In talking with one parent who has two children in the system, felt that the Superintendent was very interested in the quality of education. She had heard Dr. Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill speak at her children's school on a couple of occasions and was impressed by her. She believes that she probably clashed with the Archbishop over the closing of the schools.

When asked if she felt that the Superintendent should share any blame for the closing, the answer was no.

Now, this does not mean that the parent in question is clueless about things. No, it is just her take on things.

Personally, I believe it is a combination of the two: poor long term planning and the pressure to close schools to cut the budget by the Archbishop.

Do you think she was pushed out due to battles with the Archbishop over closings? Do you think she refused to be the "fall guy" for this anymore? Do you think she left because she was disgusted by the push to close schools? A combination of all?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Outside of the timing of the news story (which could also be explained as just wanting to give the Standard the scoop), is there any reason to think she was pushed out? The gig she is taking is a pretty high-post gig, placing her on the national level for Catholic education. I would assume it is actually a promotion, one that is frankly undeserved. Not to lay all the problems on her but during her watch enrollments plummeted and schools were closed and are closing. She is exiting at a time convenient to her, in my opinion.

This is somewhat of a tangent but the current round of closings I think is more frightening than the seven DC schools that were switched to a charter format. I don’t know much about those schools but my impression is they did not serve a catholic population. While providing a quality education with Catholic values to non-Catholics is ideal, in a world of limited budgets it may not be practical. I am not suggesting it was right or wrong to close those schools but, according to the Standard article a few months back, the ADW funneled all of its reserves into keeping those schools open. Now, since the ADW has no money, it is looking into closing other schools that do serve a Catholic population but in poorer neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Weitzel-O'Neill is leaving because so much she had worked for is falling apart. She has to share the blame for what has happened, the woman simply did not have a clue. She is essentially a paternalistic liberal who thought that her kind impulses constituted a strategy for sustaining Catholic schools in neighborhoods where there are many poor people. She over reached, but then so did many others. Cardinal Hickey made a poor decision in creating such a large consortium of schools in the first place. Cardinal McCarrick made an error in expanding that consortium. We simply did not have the resources to sustain a large number of schools. As far as the charter conversion is concerned, it's true that the schools converted served mostly non Catholic children. The conversion idea was not Weitzel-O'Neill's, Thomas Burnford has to take the blame for that bad idea. She eventually went along with it though. Center City Public Charter Schools Inc., the former Catholic schools consortium, is doing no better then before. It's a long story and it's a mess. She is getting out before more Catholic schools close and more of the converted charter schools close.

Anonymous said...

It's true she is getting out while the getting is good. The voucher program is coming to an end thanks to Congressional Democrats and President Obama, and this will wreak havoc on Catholic schools in the city. The wreckage will be extensive, and she does not want to stay around to see all the mess. Concerning the charter conversion, there are ongoing issues there also. The first budget of Center City Public Charter Schools published in July 2008 actually called for a deficit of over $1,700,000. Apparently, the Center City folks thought they were still part of the Archdiocese , and consequently any cost over runs would be covered by the Church. They did not seem to realize that they were in the real world now, and the Archdiocese would not be there to clean up any mess they created. One school, the former St. Francis DeSales school, closed after one year. When the seven converted schools were Catholic schools, they suffered from falling enrollement and money woes. That pattern has continued eventhough the schools are now tuition free.

Anonymous said...

The fiscal year 2010 budget for Center City Public Charter Schools shows a deficit of over $950,000. There is no deficit even remotely close to that in any other charter school operators 2010 budget. It looks as though the Archdiocese really picked a fiscally incompetent group to operate the six converted Catholic schools.


To the Last Anon...do you have a link or reference to those numbers?