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Diocese school plan expected to change

A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said that a plan that would close, merge or convert parochial schools into “Academies” will likely be modified.
“Everything is on the table,” said Reverend Kieran Harrington in an interview with The Courier on Monday, January 26. “The proposed recommendations were just that,” Harrington said.
A report by a Diocesan Reconfiguration Committee announced in early January made 29 recommendations, which included closing five parochial schools and merging three parish schools into one campus.
Our Lady of Grace School in Howard Beach is planned to convert into an “Academy,” along with Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School in Ridgewood and Saint Anastasia School in Douglaston.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, responsible for Roman Catholic churches and schools throughout Queens and Brooklyn, called for the study “to ensure the long term vitality and strength of Catholic Schools in the diocese,” according to the January announcement.
“There were consultations on all 29 proposals,” Harrington said, “especially in the areas impacted.”
He would not speculate as to how the final plan would differ from what was proposed. “There’s already been information presented that gave people pause,” Harrington said.
Although the estimated cost per student in Catholic schools is about one-third of that for Public Schools (not counting Special Education students) rising costs and changing demographics have put many parish schools in a financial bind.
The conversion of a parochial school into an Academy separates pastoral, educational and management roles.
The parish priest would still oversee the spiritual needs and religious portion of curriculum, while the Principal tended to “teacher development” and a Board of Lay Directors administered the school.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments,” said Cynthia Roma, the Assistant Principal of Saint Anastasia, “but we only heard about the proposal in January and I haven’t spoken to everyone.”
“Bishop Caggiano [the Vicar General of the diocese] is supposed to meet with us on February 5,” she said.
Principal Margaret Baxter of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School was completely positive about the change.
“Our High Schools are already Academies,” she said, adding that she had been a Director of one diocese High School. “The Principal takes care of education and the Board takes care of the business end - everybody does what they’re good at.”
Baxter said that some parent’s initial reservations were based on a misunderstanding. “The school has to close and reopen as an Academy - it’s has to do with the certification process,” she explained.
When asked if the recommended Academy conversions were likely to go forward unchanged, Harrington declined “to speak for the Bishop.”
“No final decision has been made,” he said, adding, “Bishop DiMarzio expects to make his decision in February.”

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