Thursday, April 04, 2013

Catholic Schools Could Become Ivory Towers of the Elite - Like Magnet, or Lab Schools

And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought; 39But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God. And they consented to him. Acts of the Apostles 5: 38-39

The longer I live the more I learn about how things should not be done.  At one time government was a help; now it is cross-dressing Spendaholic Nanny Uncle with truth issues. At one time Mainline Protestant Denominations were the home to Progressive Babbitry; now, they are segment of Bill Moyers-in-Drag on Sharia Law.

Catholic schools used be very economical, because Brothers, Priests and Nuns comprised a good percentage of the work-force; now, Catholic schools are either doomed to close, or be ivory bell-towers for elites.

It is the in-between  that tells the tales.  Government became a soup-kitchen, tent-city and Circus maximus from the late 1960's - 1990's.  Mainline Protestant Denominations squeezed out the bible-thumpers between Billy Graham and Rev. Barry Lynn while jumping ship from the tepidly pro-abortion Rockefeller GOP to the mad-dog infanticidal maniacs of the DNC.

Catholic schools are run and staffed by lay-persons with very few exceptions ever since Vatican II.

During the 1970's smart Catholic school leaders began to tap private foundations as sources of money that could help make up the gap between revenue and expense, due to declining vocations.  By the 1980's wormy creatures named Development Directors oozed from charity swamps - this slug is one.

 I first heard the term Director of Development in the mid 1980's and the school I worked for hired one.  He lasted about ten months, brought in no new revenue, but he had a stunning wardrobe and golfed like he jumped off the The Tour.

 He had come from the world of business, sales - radio sales to be exact.  He did not understand, or like high school kids very much as I recall, but he liked teachers even less. He drew a pretty handsome salary, but never wrote to Alumni, sent out grant proposals and seemed unable to adequately articulate the history, culture and mission of the school.

He was let go and went on to run a United Way Campaign in Central Illinois for three times what he made in a Catholic school.  This Fund-raising Professional was replaced by a sweet, funny and seventy year old Sister of the Congregation of Notre Dame.  Sr. Madeline Lamar, CND.  She went through the records of the schools and developed the first Alumni Directory, followed by a raffle-calendar, a Spring Event with Dinner and Auction, a wonderful Alumni News letter, and the first annual direct mail campaign.

Prior to that Sr. Lamar worked in the offices answering phones, taking attendance, teaching religion and making students feel good. That was where I learned fundraising.  Watching a sweet-natured little French woman 'Try" stuff.  When Sr. Lamar approached with a her eyes popped in excitement, you were in for some work, " Hey, Pat!  You're Irish . . .and you are so good with words . . .You know what would be fun?  Designing our Raffle Calendar and writing up an Irish Theme for it. . . .AND you get a band going!  Yeah, your Irish band from Chicago . . .and you and Kenny, Jack, Rick, and Joel could do a rock'n roll show for the kids and . . . ! "

Scads of fun.  Months of fun!  Who needs weekends sucking up Rhinelanders and tossing horseshoes?  She had me hooked through the gills and my big mouth!

School fundraising can be brutally disappointing, exhilarating, flattering, embarrassing, rewarding and confusing all on the same day. You can help raise more than million dollars to aid a budget of $ 1.2M and find that it is not enough.  That's the job. . .read the fine print.

Catholic schools and families who need Catholic schools need substantial support.  Public schools hijacked many of the larger private and corporate  foundations by dint of political favors and intimidations.   Catholic politicians have done more to help public education, than they have to help the schools that educated them.
In the 1990's, my neighbor and friend Paul Vallas was CEO of CPS.   Kidding on the square, I often refered to the big talented Greek as the Prince of Darkness - Paul took Peoples Gas, Quaker Oats, Polk Brothers and other charities out of the reach of Catholic, Dutch, Jewish and Lutheran schools and established a Chicago Public Education Reform Foundation headquartered in . . .Evanston.

Leo had big hearted and heroic Bob Foster's name as 501 (c) 3 cache, but Paul Vallas had the crabby little guy who tossed tantrums and people under the CTA wheels with the bat of an eye-brow. Any business in Chicago became enthralled to padding millions of more dollars on to the hundreds of millions of tax-dollars being incinerated hourly by Chicago Public Schools.

School Choice? Vouchers?  Nope! Choice boiled down to Charters (Catholic Schools without God) or CPS havens for teachers without skills, or Magnet Palaces for the skilled and enthusiastic teacher and children of privilege.  That's Reform, folks.

Catholic schools, elementary and secondary, shuttered with regularity under Joseph Cardinal Bernardin - Joseph the Closer and continued until Cardinal George stopped the bleeding and appointed Sister Mary Paul McCaughey. However, the damage had been done.  Elementary feeder schools that had at one time been the recruitment pools for Catholic high schools.  The closer a high school happened to be to the inner city ( read South and West sides) the tougher the draw for students. Not only the fact that black Catholic parishes had been closed, but also the African American middle class Diaspora to the 'Burbs. Black flight had replaced White flight.

On top of that, Chicago City Hall saw the potential for a real estate boom and quickly shut down Chicago Housing Authority and the Projects.   With no affordable housing available families with Section 8 vouchers   took residence in formerly Black middle class apartments and houses.  The crime that had once been isolated along the east side Dan Ryan between 54th Street and Archer Ave. was now knocking on the doors of Ernie Terrell in Roseland and retired physicians and CPD Commanders in Pill Hill.

Through all of this, the economy tanked and layoffs became the order of the day.

A few Catholic high schools closed or were converted to Charter schools and the once powerful support by private foundations began to dry up almost as fast as the tuition payments slowed down.

Foundations, with boards dominated by lawyers, businessmen and accountants, do not want to fund schools that are doomed to close. They want schools run like like businesses - cut here, profit there. At the same time,Catholic schools that put    $10,15, or 25 thousand a year from grants into the budget were now seeing letters that said, " While our decision to longer fund your school is final, we continue to honor and value the very good and important work you continue without our annual support." Concern over that state of schools that might be closed, leads bottom-line sensible boards to pull funding from schools that really need it.
Now, that is a paradox.

Some of these foundations decided money would be better spent funneled through a university "Mentoring Program for Inner City Students Attending Inner City High Schools."

Catholic schools that operate like businesses have no trouble maintaining vigorous business and private support.  Those schools tend to be schools with a very competitive enrollment and placement program, provide competitive teacher salaries, sport magnificent campus, library and athletic facilities and students willing to travel many miles to earn the cache of association with that school.  These schools can demand       $ 8,000, 9,000 and up 15,000 per year, as well as a fund-raising commitment based upon family income.

Now, more working class and middle class families are finding the pink slip in the pay envelope.  An accountant formerly making $ 85,000 in a smart-sized City, or County Department awakens in his heavily mortgaged and taxed Chicago bungalow and struggles the thought of selling his home and taking his two daughters out of Queen of Peace High School.  A highly skilled cement finisher is no longer in demand to fix sidewalks, stairs and porches must wonder if ' Tommy, Mary and Liam will be happy at Clissold CPS on Western Ave. after so many years at St. Cajetan?'

Catholic schools should be only for those who can afford nose-bleed tuitions.  Catholic schools were established for poor and working class families.  The Office of Catholic Schools and the heroic Big Shoulders Fund are working 24-7 to maintain this historical mission.

Leo High School is and has always been a working man's school.  With Tuition set at $ 7,500 for next year, we know that very few of families can meet that cost.  Likewise, Leo High School wants families to know that a Catholic education is available for young men.  President Dan McGrath invites families to qualify for the Leo Advantage.

We'll see, as Gamaliel told the lads of the Temple who wanted to close down the first Christians,  " if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it."

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