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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.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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