There is currently a war going on in our fair city in the most unlikeliest of places. You see metro Toledo currently has an amazing six Catholic high schools in the midst of rapidly increasing education costs and a rapidly declining school-age population. Four of the schools are devoted to a single sex environment, two are currently co-educational. At some point, there has to be some attrition, one would think.
One of the co-ed schools, Cardinal Stritch, opened an affiliated pre-K – 8th grade program a few years ago. This keeps a stream, however small it may be, in their school. The high school does try to attract students leaving elementary, and I believe they are somewhat successful in that mission, but it was obviously not enough to keep them afloat. I believe that this system, called Kateri Catholic Schools, is operated by the Diocese of Toledo.
St John Jesuit (boys), Notre Dame Academy and St Ursula Academy (both girls) opened middle schools over the course of the last couple of years. The Diocese placed some large restrictions on each. They were restricted in the numbers of students they could enroll from any particular Catholic elementary school, they are required to provide wholly separate facilities for the middle school and they are required to charge tuition equal to that charged to students of the high school. Whatever reasons each of these schools cites for opening these middle schools, the plain reason is to bolster enrollment across the board.
Central Catholic High School is operated, like Kateri, by the Diocese of Toledo as is each of the elementary schools run by parishes throughout the Diocese. While the Diocese has held meetings, both public and private, regarding consolidating the various parish middle schools into one or more Diocesan middle school, it hasn’t really done anything concrete as of yet. St Francis de Sales High School is run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The oblates started a non-religious charter middle school several years ago. This school is run with a completely secular curriculum and caters toward students who need enrichment. Many continue on to the high school, but the word in the community is that many ultimately can’t cut the rigors of the program. By way of comaprison with the other single sex schools, the charter school is not the enrollment enhancer that the other middle schools are.
As it is today, each of the six schools fight like hell over every single 8th grader. Each school has its own methods, several are now using free or reduced iPads, MacBooks and the like to entice students. It really has gotten cut throat. Each school claims that it’s not going anywhere and is in it for the long haul.
So now we turn to parish schools. As long as the rolls of the Catholic Church continues to fall and the population of school-age kids decreases, the parish schools are fighting to stay alive as well. Any move by the Diocese to remove the middle school from each strikes a potential death. It would seem that the Diocese would be better served to leave some of the larger parishes alone or let them work out a consolidation on their own terms. That may ultimately happen, because as I’ve stated previously, the Diocese has yet to strike the blow.
One school isn’t waiting.
St Joseph’s School in Maumee, already rumored to have cut ties to the other Catholic High Schools, has gotten into bed with Central Catholic. I know, lousy metaphor, right?
St Joe’s is going to operate a middle school at its parish campus, but the school is going to be affiliated with Central Catholic. Students will receive iPads. A computer lab will be stocked with MacBooks. For this the students will be surcharged a bit on the tuition front to the tune of several hundred dollars. But a far cry from the $10,000 charged to the middle school students at the academies.
Let’s dissect this deal for a second. According to a teacher at the school, St Joe’s this year currently has 21 8th graders. The plan for this “new” middle school is 25 in each of the three middle school grades. Beside the technology, Central’s contribution is going to largely be curriculum based. Interestingly enough, the Diocese has a curriculum for its parish schools that each is mandated to follow. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that the “new” curriculum cannot be all that different from what’s there now. No. No. The naked motivation of this whole deal is steer kids to Cherry Street for high school while keeping St Joe’s afloat.
There are two or three larger and probably more effective parish schools within a short distance of St Joseph. If the middle school is flailing along, why not affiliate with one of these other schools?
I’ll tell you why not. Because they are in competition with them. I know. It boggles the mind.
And what about Central Catholic and its wolf-in-sheep’s clothing approach? The school has rich alumni willing to donate millions. Together with St Vincent Mercy Hospital, they’ve really fixed up the neighborhood on Cherry Street by bulldozing most of the neighborhood. The result of this effort has been to essentially anchor the school to the inner city. They’ve spent too much to move. So the school now has to come up with the illusion that they aren’t an inner city school.
The school is currently constructing a baseball stadium in southwest Toledo, miles away from the inner city. With this new affiliation in Maumee, the school has spread its presence into the suburbs. So the result is that school can maintain its location while at the same time appearing as if it’s located in suburbia.
An interesting side note is that St Francis de Sales held its annual fundraising carnival this past weekend and distributed fliers for inclusion in each elementary school’s correspondence system. Rumor is that all schools complied with the request to which only St Joseph’s refused.