The recent announcement by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to force all diocesan affiliated schools to have a PK-7 program was shortsighted and, in my opinion, will force some key New Orleans-area educational institutions to abandon their participation as an archdiocesan-affiliated school.
In their decision, it is evident that Superintendent (Jan) Lancaster and Archbishop (Gregory) Aymond did not seek out the input or advice of a key group — parents of students who have and are attending Holy Cross, Christian Brothers, St. Augustine and Brother Martin. Did anyone from the archdiocese ask parents from all financial and ethnic backgrounds why they move their children from parish schools to one of these above institutions? These schools’ tuitions are more expensive than the majority of parish schools, yet parents sacrifice and endure significant additional cost to send children to the institutions because they and their children feel these schools can provide something better — a unique education and environment tailored specifically to the needs of boys in fifth through seventh grades.
The archdiocesan decision seems to be based on an attempt to prop up the financial needs and shortfalls of parish schools that lose students to these institutions, assuming certain schools will eliminate grade levels under the eighth grade so as to comply. What the decision fails to take into consideration is that many of the affected schools may add grade levels down to kindergarten, which will then pull even more students at the lower grade levels from parish schools. The new program is essentially a penalty to these middle schools that have tailored a curriculum and environment to meet the needs of adolescent boys by forcing them to look at significant restructuring cost in facilities and faculty that parents of the archdiocese would bare.
Since their formation, the above schools have worked closely with the archdiocese and within their oversight. Unfortunately, Lancaster and the archdiocese have forced these schools into a difficult decision, and one I am sure each of these institutions and religious orders wish they did not have to make.
In closing, from conversations with numerous friends and parents from all of these schools, our recommendations to these institutions would be the time has come for these schools to part ways with archdiocesan affiliation and oversight, and to continue their successful history of providing the excellent Catholic educational environment they have achieved in their current structure.
Sheldon “Skip” Brechtel
executive vice president, CCMSI