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BRIGHTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston made public plans to revitalize Catholic schools in Dorchester and Mattapan on Oct. 30. The venture will be the second phase of the 2010 Initiative, which completed a separate project in Brockton last month.
In January, the pastors and principals of eight parochial schools -- Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Angela, St. Ann, St. Brendan, St. Gregory, St. Kevin, St. Mark and St. Peter -- formed a committee to discuss the future of Catholic education in the Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods. During this strategic planning process, they received input from the 2010 consultative group as well as the school communities.
The committee is expected to submit their plan to Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley sometime in early November, and he is expected to respond by Nov. 30.
Sister Kathleen FitzSimons, CND, interim superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said, “There is consensus about proposing to the cardinal that a regional form of governance would be established for the Dorchester-Mattapan schools.”
The plan would ensure the future of Catholic education in that area, she added.
If Cardinal O’Malley approves the proposal, the schools will be able to opt in or out of the regionalized school system.
In Brockton, three schools completed a merger to become Trinity Catholic Academy at the beginning of this academic year. The academy now consists of two campuses, located within a mile of each other. It was the first project of the 2010 Initiative to revitalize archdiocesan schools. The initiative was first announced in August 2005.
In Dorchester and Mattapan, the committee of pastors and principals has also sought the input of parents, teachers and parishioners. This past spring parents were given a survey and informed of the results. Each school was then asked to form a parent-teacher consultation committee to meet over the summer and come up with options.
Those recommendations were reviewed by the pastors, principals, parish and finance council members, parents and teachers.
From Oct. 23-29 2010 Initiative representatives met with parents from each school to talk about the options and relate the results of a feasibility study that analyzed information about where the students live and the projected census.
Also presented to parents at those meetings were ways to strengthen Catholic education by implementing a regional management board, fiscally strong schools and greater scholarship assistance.
Sister Kathleen said the committee has found that most parents prefer a school system where buildings will house classes from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. They also want to strengthen the Catholic identities of the schools, she said.
Additionally, parish groups recommended four or five school locations, which would mean closing three to four school buildings, she said.
The next step in the process is for the committee to compile feedback from parents and review the options before making a recommendation to the cardinal, she added.
Father Thomas S. Foley, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Dorchester, said that many of the schools are concerned about declining enrollment and financial challenges. The committee found that enrollment declined from 2006 to 2007 by 6 percent and projected that no school would require more than 10 classrooms by 2011.
Many affiliated with the schools see the advantages of a regional system that would include new or refurbished buildings, improved curriculum and additional special programs.
“Some of the schools are very eager to move into a regional school and not delay any longer,” Father Foley said. “If we were to move forward for the next school year, we obviously would need to be able to make some announcements and put some things in place relatively soon.”
Several schools face very serious financial challenges and want to move forward, he said.
“This is a lifeline being extended to us. It may mean a loss for us in some ways, but there’s a gain in so many ways,” he said.
For more information about the Dorchester and Mattapan 2010 Initiative project, visit the archdiocesan Web site at www.rcab.org.