Sometimes, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York reminds me of the haughty leaders of The Capitol in the novel and movie “The Hunger Games.”
In the last couple of weeks, the Archdiocese, as it does nearly every year, released its hit list of schools that it deems expendable come June unless those schools come up with a lot of money and good arguments about why they should not be shuttered. This year, one of the schools on the list is Blessed Sacrament School on Beach Avenue in the Bronx. It is my Alma Mater and the school where Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor learned her educational basics.
There are only nine Supreme Court Justices and surely it says something about the quality of the education at Blessed Sacrament that the school produced the first Hispanic ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor grew up in a low-income family in a nearby housing project. She attended BSS for eight years and it led her to Cardinal Spellman High School and Yale University.
Sotomayor has returned to her Alma Mater in recent years after her appointment to visit the children and be a beacon of hope that, yes, you can do wondrous things through education. That is the message of virtually every leader in our society from President Obama on down.
BSS still serves a poor, mostly Hispanic, population in the low-income Soundview section of the Bronx, a place most New Yorkers have never been.
So why is the Archdiocese planning to close this school unless — in its own version of “The Hunger Games” — BSS comes up with $1.3 million by January 3rd? Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling says the problem with BSS, as with a lot of schools, is the dwindling enrollment. “As recently as ten yeas ago, the enrollment was 473 student,” Zwilling said. “Now, it’s 175 students. I don’t honestly know what happened.”
As enrollment goes down, tuition invariably rises and that causes enrollment to drop further, he said. As a result, the yearly deficit at BSS is now nearly $400,000.
But however you slice it, asking an inner-city school to come up with more than a million dollars in one month is, frankly, obscene.
And yet, we’re going to try. Principal Herminia Roman has sent out a letter to alumni asking them to help her perform “a miracle.”A Facebook page has been set up, tweets sent out, a paypal account created for donations but the best argument for continuing the school is the hope that it may produce, if not another Supreme Court Justice, then scores of other productive New Yorkers.
Please help and give what you can.