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Catholic schools must learn from Bishop Ford’s mistakes

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Catholic schools, please take notice of what is going on at Bishop Ford. Study the situation and learn from it.

The Windsor Terrace high school went from being financially healthy with a solid enrollment in 2006, to having to close its doors at the end of this school year. The news came without warning, with little time to react.

Happy Easter.

Just four Brooklyn high schools will remain in the Catholic boys’ league and just six will be left on the girls side if Ford closes as planned.

“As a Catholic, it concerns me — the fact that if a school like Bishop Ford can close, it can pretty much happen anywhere,” said Falcons boys’ basketball coach Denis Nolan.

Poor decisions led to this. Ford had a chance to at least hold off its financial troubles, according to alum Joseph DiMauro, the president of the Bishop Ford Foundation and a major donor.

In 2008, the school’s previous Board of Trustees raised tuition from $6,000 to $9,000 on a school population that could not support it, and failed to enact a financial plan in 2012 after enrollment sharply dropped, according to DiMauro. Bishop Ford’s leadership lacked the foresight that the students, teachers and employees deserved.

“Closing a school doesn’t solve the problem,” DiMauro said. “You have to change the way you do business. You have to have innovative people. You can’t have a bunch of old guys standing around saying, ‘This is a problem, let’s just close it.’ ”

School closings, especially this late in the year, cause more problems than solutions. Teachers and staff have less time to secure jobs, and student-athletes have less time to grow accustomed to their new programs.

“There was absolutely no consideration or empathy given to the present students, families and faculty at Ford due to the timing of the decision,” said Ford football coach Jim Esposito.

Closures continue to be the first course of action. Nazareth coming back from the brink is the exception to the rule.

The Diocese has said on numerous occasions that it does not want to close schools, but Stella Maris closed, Nazareth was on the chopping block, and now so is Bishop Ford. The only beneficiary of a school folding is the diocese because of the value of the land it sits on.

Closing schools is never the answer, but it’s up to the institutions to act early enough to make keeping them open the better option.

Posted 12:00 am, April 24, 2014
Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
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Reader feedback

Steve Kellmeyer from Plano says:
All Catholic schools will be closed within forty years. I've written a book that explains why. Process has been ongoing since 1970 - you're in the middle of the sequence.

https://gracesreceived.com/store/bridegroompress/books/designed-to-fail-catholic-education-in-america

Get used to it.
April 24, 2014, 9:15 am
Steve Virgadamo from New York says:
Steven Virgadamo grieves the closing of any Catholic School. These schools have been and must continue to be a main staple in the American educational landscape. Providing parents with an opportunity to choose an education for their child is a civil rights issue and should not depend an a families ability to pay tuition or afford to live in a thriving government school district.
April 24, 2014, 9:26 am
Tony from Brooklyn says:
There is no mention in the article of The President of the Board caught stealing over $ 50,000 a few years ago to save his son's house. It was very public and I do not understand how the Brooklyn District Attorney looked at the case and did not bring charges, just because he paid it back? That action lost the alumni donations and 8th grade parents from trusting Bishop Ford as an honest high school to put down as a choice on the HS Entrance Exams.
April 27, 2014, 8:13 am
Josephine Valente from Marine Park says:
Please don't forget CATHERINE McAULEY, the all-girls' Catholic high school in East Flatbush that closed in June 2013. McAuley served the young women of Brooklyn and beyond since it opened in 1942. It established the first boarding program for teenagers in New York City, and was the only all-girls' Catholic high school in Brooklyn or Queens to earn the prestigious title, "Nationally Recognized School of Excellence" from the U.S. Department of Education.
In my humble opinion, Catholic schools are struggling (and closing) due to changing demographics, the economic downturn of 2008, and the increase in the number of charter schools.
Catholic schools served thousands of immigrant families and their children, many of whom were not wealthy. Unfortunately, now it seems these schools will only survive in communities that can afford to pay tuition at levels close to the actual cost per student, or where major donors can make up the difference.
Jo Valente, Former Administrator at McAuley
MAROON & GOLD FOREVER!
May 10, 2014, 12:19 pm
Joe C from Gravesend says:
My 3 boys went to BF with the last graduating 2008. Yes the old board didn't care enough to do whatever it would take to keep the school open. Even though my boys & myself liked Ray Nash his actions destroyed future fundraising which was imperative to keep tuition at $6500. The Bishop should be praised for lending BF $1 mil but just a month ago he bragged that he enabled St. Joseph's newly renovated Co-Cathedral to raise $18.5 mil by "leveraging" their property. Why couldn't this have been done with BF's property which is worth a fortune? Hard to believe that they would close a school in an an area that is becoming more and more affluent. They were still going to have 425 students this year. The students and their parents were royally screwed by announcing at such a late date that the school was closing. My guess is that Bishop DiMarzio and perhaps some other Bishops nationwide secretly view the schools as an annoyance and don't really care if they close. Every 3-4 years they announce another round of school closings but also announce a "new initiative" to ensure the health of the remaining schools. Big charade. My guess is that once the lease for the charter school at BF expires the land will be sold for a fortune. Catholic schools in Brooklyn will probably all be gone within 20 years and their teachings that turned their graduates into moral and productive citizens. What a shame.
June 23, 2014, 2:29 pm
Former Falcon from Brooklyn says:
** To Joe C **
I agree with your view , I wrote a comment in another Brooklyn Newspaper about Fords closing that if the Diocese wanted to save Ford it could have. Maybe I don't understand fully but I thought cleaning house from the Board to Select Faculty , put in new leadership , clean up its debt. and give the community the confidence that it needs to start building Ford up again would have been a good plan . Also , In addition to your St. Joseph property leverage info. the Catholic Diocese is also spending $250m on a renovation for St. Pats in Manhattan - sounds like all Ford needed was $4m to start fresh......maybe one does not have to do with the other but man does it hurt to see this.

My other thought was that the corruption and scandal was so deep here that its in the best interest of the Diocese to just shut it down before anything else gets out.

It was a good school when I attended I would do it all over again - its a shame we did not have leadership anywhere in the organization.
FF
June 24, 2014, 2:37 pm
JohnThreetwenty from The Righteous says:
The scandals go back decades and are right up there with Penn State and Poly Prep. It is absolutely incredible that the victims have not come forward yet. The Diocese is investigating now and asking victims to come forward to the Brooklyn: Office of Victim Assistance Ministry 310 Prospect Park West.

There have been many victims and so far ZERO Justice as a few enriched themselves by keeping the scandals hushed up and pocketing donations.
June 26, 2014, 2 pm
Joe M from Bay Ridge says:
One football coach from Ford used to come into the cafeteria and grab students by the neck so forcefully that the students (a male) asked teachers on duty to please tell the coach and Dean to take his hands off him. There was a problem with this Dean and yet people were too afraid of his temper. Nothing was done, FOR YEARS.
July 1, 2014, 1:32 pm
Greg from Park Slope says:
I am a graduate of Bishop Ford class of 1976. Back in the day a great majority of the teachers were brothers who do not command a great salary. Raising the tutiton form 6k to 9K was one of the reasons why the school closed. Ray Nash's issue not doubt decreased fund raising. Bottom line is if you don't have enough students you are going to close your doors. The bottom line is money to the catholic church. Bishop Ford was not a great school but a very good school who taught adademic and respect. How many schools do that today.
July 23, 2014, 3:05 pm
Young Goodman Brown from Pious Hypocrites says:
I graduated in 1992, it wasn't until college that I realized just how cheated students were by this "school." This was never an academic environment, but a juvenile detention facility where children were nothing but chattel commanding a market price.

The malfeasance is just incredible, and the multitude of sexual predators that remained on the staff to rape underage male and female students for decades is finally coming to light.

The administration actively covered up sexual abuse, including a teacher being caught having sex with a student in the school parking lot by a Brother and a male pedophilia victim returning to the school to tell the former president that his teacher had raped him, only to be dismissed with the rapist teacher personally handed an award by the president himself.

This school manufactured victims on an assembly line for decades, while protecting its pedophiles and enriching the administration.

Still, there is no justice for the victims while the predators are still allowed to be in contact with children and the thieves who stole millions get to live out their forced retirements in luxury.

In the end Jerry Sandusky's victims received justice, will Bishop Ford's ever?
July 29, 2014, 8:24 am
Young Goodman Brown from Pious Hypocrites says:
The financial malfeasance was well known decades ago, people tried to bring it to light in 2004:

Open the Financial Records of Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School
Petition published by Anonymous on Dec 01, 2004
Closed on Aug 22, 2011
8 Signatures

Sign Petition

Target: Bishop Ford HS
Region: United States of America
Petition Closed
Sponsor
Result:
Thanks to those that saw and/or signed this petition and see financial transparency as a serious issue like I do.

Now that the much larger issue is being dealt with this petition is no longer needed.
Petition Background (Preamble):
This petition is to fight the President of Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School. We want to know where did our tuition go? For new cars? Why is the tuition being raised each year while the quality of teachers decline each year?

We want to know why this happening. We don't want others falling into this system corporate fraud. People are not getting the education they paid for. We are talking about thousands of dollars, and unqualified teachers.

Please sign this petition if you support opening the financial records of Bishop Ford to see where our tuition went in the past. We want to know!
Petition:
July 29, 2014, 8:26 am
Elizabeth Sorvillo from Formerly of Sunnyside, Queens says:
In my opinion St. Francis Prep will be next. St. Francis Prep seems to be following the exact pattern Ford followed - refusing to clean house, scandal after scandal, and the financial controller of St. Francis Prep is a felon who spent almost five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit robbery. Enrollment at Prep is currently listed at a little over 2600 - this is a decrease over prior years. The base tuition has been increased to $8,300. The writing is on the wall.
Oct. 16, 2014, 12:03 pm
JM from Bay Ridge says:
So sad. I spent four wonderful years at Bishop Ford. Catholic following in Brooklyn is dwindling for sure but this could have been prevented.
Jan. 18, 2016, 3:54 pm
Mark from Park Slope says:
the obvious reason aside from higher tuition...way too many blacks were at that school...people are AFRAID to admit that, but that was the main reason for the closure....
Sept. 21, 2016, 2:07 pm
Jeff marc from East flatbush says:
Mark from park slope is a racist ——.
Dec. 20, 2016, 10:26 pm
Jeff marc from East flatbush says:
I'm black and went to FORD
Dec. 20, 2016, 10:26 pm

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