Cleansing Fire

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“It Worked Well”

January 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

13-WHAM news ran a story on DOR schools returning to parish control (follow this link to see the video)

It [diocesan control of the schools] worked well [did it really?  Perhaps our resident expert on schools can offer some input.], said Anne Willkens Leach, Superintendent of the Department of Catholic Schools.  But now the economy has changed [reminds me of “demographic shifts”], and the Diocese is revisiting the way these schools are configured.

“We’ve also done some research, and discovered schools that do well have a close connection to their parishes,” Willkens Leach said. [A little late, perhaps, but better than never I suppose.  Since the diocese is opening their eyes the research, perhaps they’ll also find out that orthodoxy leads to more people in the pews, more vocations, and more faithful Catholics.]

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21 Responses to ““It Worked Well””

  1. avatar Monk says:

    Perhaps they will discover that people are attracted (and give their money) to strong local parishes with a priest/pastor. Everything the DoR does destroys the parish model that has worked for generations. Closing parish schools, clustering, consolidating multiple parishes, lay administrators, Confirmations at the Cathedral instead of at the local parish, sucking huge sums of money out of the parishes for the CMA tax etc. all are slowly destroying the successful parish model. The results are devastating to the faith and also to the community at large.

  2. avatar Eliza10 says:

    I talked about the secular schools’ “Building-Based Management” trend of a few years back (other trends have come and gone) in some other post. In short, teachers put required time and energy into appearing as if they are actually running the school while they carry out the districts plan, and th district gets to say the individual sc hools are running things…

    So I saw this blurb, too, and thought, “Lets just see what parish-control really looks like.” I hate to be cynical, but it would have to be coming from a completely different dictatorship than the current one not to.

  3. avatar Mike says:

    Ben,

    I also saw that “It worked well” line and wondered just how many people Ms. Wilkens Leach thought she was fooling.

    Here’s how well it really worked:

    In 1988 39 Monroe County Catholic elementary schools then educating 16,044 children were removed from parish control. By 2010 we were down to 11 schools with a total enrollment of 3,446 students (with a few hundred more in junior high programs run by various Catholic high schools). IOW, in 22 years we lost about 72% of our schools and about 75% of our Catholic students.

    Probably the worst period of DOR school control came during the 5 year tenure of Sr. Elizabeth Meegan as MCCS Superintendent. Sr. Elizabeth arrived in DOR in 2001 and soon dreamed up a plan to help more of our less well off families attend our schools by effectively increasing the tuition paid by our more well off families – in some cases by as much as 40%. This might have made some sense in a weird, social justice sort of way, but it made no sense at all to those who were barely able to afford the the old rates. It seems there were quite a few of those folks and some 250 of them gathered one evening in November 2002 in the Bishop Kearney auditorium and told her the new rates would drive them out of the system. Sr. Elizabeth must have thought it was all bluff because she went full steam ahead with her tuition overhaul plan. Bottom line: When Sr. Elizabeth arrived in DOR in 2001 MCCS enrollment was at 7,127 in 30 schools. When she left 5 years later it was down to 4,806 in 24 schools. 2,321 children (32.6%) had left the system and 20% of our schools had been closed in a mere 5 years.

    But perhaps the most telling indictment of DOR’s management of its Catholic schools comes from a database obtained from the National Catholic Education Association by the D&C in 2008 (and still available here). This db contains both the 1997-98 and 2007-08 Catholic school enrollment numbers for every diocese in the country and shows that there were 36 other dioceses that had a 1997-98 enrollment similar (i.e., plus or minus 25%) to DOR’s. By 2007-08 we had lost a higher percentage (39.4%) of our students than all but one of those other dioceses. Only the Diocese of Scranton had a worse record.

    If the above data is Ms. Wilkens Leach’s idea of “working well” I simply cannot imagine what her idea of “working poorly” might be.

  4. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Wow, Mike, these numbers are shocking and heartbreaking. Will these facts get us a new Bishop, faster? I hope so.

    Even without these stark facts you have provided, any casual observer can see that something has been seriously and glaringly wrong with how our Catholic Schools have been run under Bishop Clark. So wrong that you have to wonder – is it gross incompetance or is this being done systematically on purpose? To be THIS bad, it seems it would HAVE to be on purpose.

    The possible motive – I have no idea – other than perhaps to install a new ideology you have to systematically tear down the old one, and a great way to start is to be sure the children aren’t educated in the old one. That’s the only theory I can come up with for ruining the schools “on purpose”. And how could such destruction possibly occur NOT on purpose?? What are the odds of that? Slim, don’t you think? You have to TRY in order for things to get that bad, that fast.

    The only thing I can think of that would fit the “not on purpose” theory is that leaders are blinded by an ideology. But one has to be quite determined not to see what is going on around one. Which leads me back to: it must have been on purpose.

    For Anne Wilkins Leach to say “It worked well” is bald faced lie. She must think the people here are pretty stupid. I think you have to be steeped in prideful superiority to think you can get away with saying that, to think that people won’t see the dishonesty of those words.

    We are going to THRIVE here in the DOR under new leadership! People here are going to so quickly warm up to truth and humility in new dioscean leadership! There is much hope! All we need is a basically Catholic, basically honest person in charge and the contrast will be stark, and the renewal brisk.

  5. avatar Monk says:

    Mike,
    You should send to 13- WHAM News exactly the facts you published here at CF and demand fair reporting on this issue.

  6. avatar Snowshoes says:

    Thank you, Ben, Mike, etal. How heartbreaking. As it says somewhere in Psalms, “Foundations once destroyed, what can the just do?”

    Eliza, it was voiced by certain diocesan officials back in the late 70s that the Catholic schools had outlived their purpose. I disagreed then and I’m sure many of us disagree now. When the Pope and bishops decreed at various times back in the 1800s that Parishes should have a grammar school, it was to be erected by the parish, overseen by the parish priest pastor and funded by the parishioners for the education of the children in the 3Rs and in the Catholic Faith, so that they would receive a well rounded education and be prepared to be good Christians and good citizens.

    One of the most important principles upon which the Catholic Church runs is subsidiarity in charity. Things are done at the lowest proper level, and the authority and responsibility go hand in hand. This is where the good motivation to do anything comes from.

    The diocese always had a vicar of Schools who oversaw the content of the educational program, who coordinated with the State, the various religious teaching orders who staffed the schools etc, but the principle of subsidiarity was preserved in charity. When you think of it, it is truly a miracle, not that the system was ever perfect, but that it flourished and did pretty well in the education of 10s of thousands of children in the diocese. Let us pray to the Holy Family that this miraculous history of parish schools in the diocese may again flourish.

  7. avatar Mike says:

    Eliza10,

    I could be wrong about this but I really do not believe there has been a conscious attempt on the part of any DOR official to get rid of our Catholic schools. Sure, there have been those who have bemoaned the drain on diocesan finances caused by these schools but I see their complaints as more of an indictment of the funding model than a wish that the schools would just disappear. No, I believe the problem is more subtle than that.

    Take, for example, the entire process leading up to the January 2008 decision to close 13 (out of 24) of our Monroe County Catholic schools. In the fall of 2007 Bishop Clark convened a “task force” of 23 well-off and/or well-connected Catholics “to explore ways we can preserve our long tradition of providing Catholic-school education in the Diocese of Rochester.” Over a period of a several weeks this committee met in secret and reviewed data supplied them by DOR, data which remains “confidential” to this day. There is no evidence that the committee interviewed any school administrators, teachers, parents or students, or that they visited so much as a single school.

    The problem with this approach is that all those people – and especially the parents – the committee didn’t feel important enough to consult were the primary stakeholders in the MCCS system. History has shown time and again that when primary stakeholders are excluded from the decision-making process, disaster usually follows – and that’s what happened in DOR. Despite a huge reduction in tuition and sound bite after sound bite of happy talk about how great the new lean and mean school system was, DOR never once met its own enrollment target. “Why not?” one might ask. Primarily because they had lost the faith and confidence of too many of those excluded parents.

    To be more explicit, I see the problem as primarily one of arrogance, i.e., a sense of superiority brought about by spending far too much time in graduate school classrooms or reading far too many journal articles expounding novel educational approaches, all the while spending as little time as possible with the people who are, in effect, one’s real customers, the parents of all those kids in your schools. These very well educated people, these “experts,” were never talking to the people who really counted.

    All this reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite preachers, Fr. John Corapi …

    Now I have some education. I have earned five university degrees, most of them with highest honors. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that to let you know that I respect education. I have a high regard for education. But in my many years around the education establishment, I was given a great revelation by God, and the revelation is: a lot of people done been educated into imbecility.

    Fr. Corapi, as usual, is spot on.

  8. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Monk says: “Mike,
    You should send to 13- WHAM News exactly the facts you published here at CF and demand fair reporting on this issue.”

    I agree! Send it in, Mike!

  9. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Hi Mike, Thanks for your thoughtful response and all the good information you have shared. And I think your idea that the ruin of our schools is not a conscious attempt is a charitable view. However, I think the likelihood of reducing our schools by 70% without any conscious attempt to make that happen is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY.

    “Snowshoes” said, above, “It it was voiced by certain diocesan officials back in the late 70s that the Catholic schools had outlived their purpose…” There you go. It doesn’t seem a stretch to imagine that those statements by DOR officials represent an ideology that sees Catholic schools as an obstacle to their ideology. They took aim in the 70’s, they stayed on path, and now we see the fallout.

    You wrote: “…Take, for example, the entire process leading up to the January 2008 decision to close 13 (out of 24) of our Monroe County Catholic schools. In the fall of 2007 Bishop Clark convened a “task force” of 23 well-off and/or well-connected Catholics “to explore ways we can preserve our long tradition of providing Catholic-school education in the Diocese of Rochester.” Over a period of a several weeks this committee met in secret and reviewed data supplied them by DOR, data which remains “confidential” to this day. There is no evidence that the committee interviewed any school administrators, teachers, parents or students, or that they visited so much as a single school.”

    There is SO MUCH wrong with this. Its shady. Dishonest. Secret.

    We need a new Bishop!

    You also wrote: “…The problem with this approach is that all those people – and especially the parents – the committee didn’t feel important enough to consult were the primary stakeholders in the MCCS system. History has shown time and again that when primary stakeholders are excluded from the decision-making process, disaster usually follows….” –

    I say its planned disaster. These people aren’t stupid. They are educated social-change-makers. They have a plan, and weakening the Catholic schools is a part of that plan. Excluding all interested people from the decision-making is a conscious choice. Not an “oops”. Keeping the meetings secret and exclusive to chosen “well-off, well-connectd people” is not an “oops” either.

    You just can’t have a 70% drop in Catholic schools without TRYING to make this happen. Its just not likely. I can see a 10% drop being an “oops”. When you start getting toward 20%, alarm bells should go off and you ask, “Whats going on here??” But seventy percent?! It can’t be anything BUT planned systematic ruin.

    There is no question that DOR officials have a serious infestation of arrogance and superiority. Yes, education plants such seeds; but the DOR is is rich soil indeed for those plants to thrive in.

    Yes, it takes some serious coordination and planning at the top to make that much of a ruin of the schools. Yes, they use committees to blame the decisions on. Secret, confidential committees. Why the secrecy? There’s no honest reason for it, you can be sure of that!

    Yes, the evil one is shaking the gates of this DOR. And the greatest enemy is within, not without. But he will not prevail, that we know.

    I have seen the faith of the uncatechized, poorly shepherded people here, and I truly believe its just waiting to blossom under new leadership. We will have a renewal.

  10. avatar Monk says:

    Mike,
    I agree that they are imbeciles and arrogant but I think it is more than that. I believe the fundamental problem is that the Bishop really, deep down, doesn’t believe that a Catholic school system is relevant anymore. I believe that he sees our school system as a barrier to the ungrounded ecumenism that he pursues with other faiths. He has stated that Catholic schools are a relic of our immigrant past where they were necessary because of the discrimination of Catholics at the time but there use is no longer needed. The process you describe is much like the process he uses to close parishes. Form a committee (that he can hide behind), put in place liberal diocesan personnel (Deb Housel, Bill Pickett, Fr. Hart etc) to oversee the committee and most importantly exclude the real stakeholders as you describe. The reason the parents are excluded (and parishioners when it is a parish closing) is that he doesn’t really want valid proposals to keep these institutions operating – he wants the closed! The conclusion is a fact before the process even begins.

  11. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Monk wrote, “…Form a committee (that he can hide behind)…”

    But he must think we are so ignorant that we don’t see that he is hiding, and we don’t see how cowardly and small that is. He is like the emperor with no clothes!

    This Diocese is going to be great for the next Bishop. He only has to show a normal capacity for integrity and the people will be awed!

  12. avatar Anonymous says:

    I wonder what will be the legacy of the bishop. Or to put it more bluntly. is he going to go around the dioceses ith his henchwomen and men and try and paint a great picture of his tenure? Is he going to really live with himself knowing what he did to the diocese? Does he really think he has the love of his sheep? Or is he content with surrounding himself with the likes of Sr. Joan, Fr. Hart and company as his soothing bahm?

  13. avatar Eliza10 says:

    I don’t care what he does. He will probably retire to a well-appointed home in a very private setting, entertain, be entertained, take vacation trips to fine places, and write about his thoughts and/or travels. And try to get some photo ops and sound bites out there.

  14. avatar A Catholic says:

    Mike,

    Maybe the DOR didn’t consciously plan to get rid of our Catholic schools, but it was utter stupidity to close so many schools without giving some of the individual parishes (like Holy Trinity in Webster or St. John of Rochester in Perinton) an opportunity to run the schools themselves when these parishes were begging for a chance to keep their schools open. Now to see the other schools revert back to parish control is to rub salt into the wounds of those who were denied a chance to save their schools. As you said, arrogance was involved, along with foolishness and a lack of committment to authentic Catholic evangelization which is so necessary and is why Catholic schools are so important.

  15. avatar Monk says:

    A Catholic says…..”it was utter stupidity….” No not stupid it was bad!

  16. avatar A Catholic says:

    Monk,

    Stupid and bad- stupid to the degree evil wasn’t intended by those who made these decisions. I can’t read their minds and hearts.

  17. avatar Anonymous says:

    St John Bosco Schools…maybe a high school in September.

  18. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Its very charitable to call it stupid. However, I think the 70% and the stated ideology and the methodology make that a long shot indeed.

  19. avatar Necessarily anon says:

    Describe the situation to anyone from outside NY and they will look at you in complete bewilderment and say, “That can’t be true…”

    I have to agree 100% with Eliza10 that it is systematic destruction going on in the DoR. The task force that “recommended” closing the 13 schools back in 2008 was a scapegoat for decisions that had already been made by the diocese. They didn’t have any say in what transpired. As Monk wrote, “The conclusion is a fact before the process even begins.”

    Eliza10 writes: “But he must think we are so ignorant that we don’t see that he is hiding, and we don’t see how cowardly and small that is. He is like the emperor with no clothes!”

    The secrecy and deceit emanating from Buffalo Rd. make it hard to discern the truth. They have been very successful at pitting parish against parish and school against school. We need to step back, work together, and acknowledge that we are all soldiers in the same army. We are all players on Team Jesus.

  20. avatar Finbar says:

    In 1992, a brave and optimistic group of dedicated parents from Saint Thomas the Apostle put forth a comprehensive plan to preserve/sustain that thriving school. Their efforts fell on deaf, opinionated and insulted ears at Buffalo Road.

    Now flash forward to recent school news. Bishop Clark and his “handlers” now think that it makes sense to return the area Catholic Schools to Parish responsibility/control.

    With about 500+ days left in his terrible, terrible “leadership”, perhaps the final gesture that our Good Shepard could give us would be his immediate resignation.

    Tick, tick, tick…

  21. avatar Anonymous says:

    Oh yes Finbar, remember well. St. Thomas the Apostle at the time was a thriving orothodox parish with almost 300 students in the parish supported school. The DoR killed the school in a most arrogant, condescending way…..and flash forward to to 2010 the same arrogant, condesceding bunch finished off what was left of the parish after years of a DoR imposed non-resident, do nothing pastor, crippling the parish with DoR imposed school taxes and CMA, all of which crippled the life of the parish to such an extent that the IPPG could easily vote to shut it down.


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