Group to examine future of Philly Catholic schools

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - December 7, 2010

The group is charged with forming a strategic plan to "assure the sustainability of Catholic education in this archdiocese" - not necessarily recommending further closures, Cardinal Justin Rigali said at a news conference.

The archdiocese, which includes Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, has 188 Catholic schools serving about 68,000 students.

But, like many other urban areas, changing demographics and low student populations have led the church to shutter or merge at least 20 schools since 2008.

Jack Quindlen, who heads the task force composed of church officials and laity, said the commission will look at education, assets, buildings, logistics and finances. Feedback from teachers, parents and staff will be considered, he added.

"The cardinal has laid out the challenges, we know what they are," said Quindlen, a retired DuPont executive and former chairman of the archdiocesan Board of Education. "We have to attack it broadly."

The commission's work should hearten parents worried about enrolling their children in schools that might be restructured, said Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees education for Rigali.

The archdiocese has been restructuring schools piecemeal for a while, Fitzgerald said, so having a long-term vision should "make them feel more comfortable."

"This is an effort to put together a global picture so that people have a plan of where we want to go and how we want to get there," he said.

The commission begins work Jan. 5 and expects to submit its recommendations to the cardinal in fall 2011.

Rigali said he hopes the group's findings will usher in "a time of renewed enthusiasm and generous support for Catholic education."



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