The final bells are tolling for a Catholic high school in Windsor Terrace.
Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School held its final commencement ceremony on Saturday, marking the end of 52 years of Catholic education in the neighborhood. The festivities were bittersweet, seniors said.
“I’m feeling pretty good, but it’s sort of sad, too,” said Joshua Wilson, who earned his diploma this weekend. “A lot of my teachers are left jobless at this point.”
Another senior shared the concern, but took her tutors’ newfound unemployment harder.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Cithera Hinds. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the teachers — and they’re like my family.”
Hinds starts at Long Island University next year and wants to study nursing. She said her teachers helped her realize her next steps.
“They really helped me find myself and figure out what I wanted to do,” she said.
The Brooklyn Diocese opened the doors to Bishop Ford as an all-boys school in 1962. It is named for Francis X. Ford, a bishop who was killed in China 10 years before the school opened. The diocese ran the institution until 1976, when it ceded control to a board of directors that turned it coed.
Recent years had seen the school struggle to keep enrollment levels up, shrinking from 1,347 students in 2006 to 499 in 2014. This April, the school’s principal Thomas Arria informed students that because of a massive debt load and an even smaller enrollment total for the coming school year, Bishop Ford was going to close.
The announcement sent shock waves through the Bishop Ford community and brought alumni, students, and parents together to try to save their beloved school. The group rallied, pleaded with the diocese for help, and tried to work with the school’s board of directors to devise a plan to save the school, but nothing stuck.
The borough’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said the church did not have the money to bail out the school, which it had already lent more than $1 million, and fund-raising efforts by alumni only garnered $41,000 of a hoped-for $2 million.
Some parents say church and school leaders could have done more.
“We’re very disappointed. It was such a legacy,” said Francis Wilson, Joshua’s father. “It’s a shame. More effort could have been made by the diocese and the board of directors.”
Newly graduated students are happy to have a diploma and they say that, despite the doors closing on their alma mater, it will not soon be forgotten.
“The Ford Falcons will never die,” said Hinds. “We’ll always be around.”