Letters to the Editor

There were hugs and tears as St. Monica Catholic School students left a farewell Mass on the last day for the Berwyn school. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
There were hugs and tears as St. Monica Catholic School students left a farewell Mass on the last day for the Berwyn school. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 20, 2012

Helping teachers after closings

The mergers and closures resulting from the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations this January were challenging for teachers, administrators, and school families throughout the archdiocese. The Office of Catholic Education (OCE) recognizes the sacrifices that so many, including teachers, make in support of Catholic education. We have a responsibility to respect that sacrifice and a duty to help them.

Since the announcement, efforts have been ongoing to assist all those affected — students, parents, teachers, and staff. No one was an afterthought, as was portrayed in Monica Yant Kinney's Sunday column, "St. Monica's closes for good."

For six months, OCE has worked diligently to ensure that all affected teachers and administrators have positions come September — more than three-fourths of the affected teachers have already secured new positions for the fall. For those still searching for a position, OCE continues to provide support and is in regular contact with them. The archdiocese continues to develop networking events, meet with teachers to discuss benefits, and partner with local universities to provide job and education consultations. OCE is providing all teachers with the ability to receive updated postings of available positions throughout the summer months.

In addition, the archdiocese has arranged for non-placed teachers to receive health-care benefits until Aug. 31 and has qualified them for a COBRA-like program through the archdiocese's benefit provider for the six months following.

While we know that our efforts will never be enough to stem the pain of losing a job, our teachers are absolutely not an afterthought in these difficult decisions. They deserve our best efforts and that is what we are providing.

Mary Rochford, superintendent of schools, Office of Catholic Education, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Others facing job loss

Thank you for your excellent, albeit sad, article about the St. Monica teachers. Our wonderful and dedicated teachers at St. Maria Goretti School in Hatfield are facing the same obstacles. I wonder if the superintendent of archdiocesan schools, Mary Rochford, would be so optimistic if she were one of the more than 800 people left without a job?

Diane Kratz, parishioner, St. Maria Goretti, Hatfield

School enrollment dropped

Here's what has happened to Catholic schools, from low-income South Philadelphia and Fishtown to high-income Berwyn and Havertown: Fewer parents sent their children to parish schools. That's it. The archbishop has nothing to do with it ("Archbishop, help the teachers," Sunday).

Why did this happen? As far as I know, there's been no market research on why families who attended Catholic schools for generations changed their minds. One thing is obvious: It's not the money. The families in Fishtown who continued to send their kids to St Laurentis came up with it somehow. Apparently, the value was seen to be worth the cost.

There are also fewer Catholic kids in the city, though that is not the case in the western suburbs. And the money is there. The parents have decided to do something else with theirs.

The fine teachers at St Monica's were providing a product that the neighborhood didn't want to buy anymore. While I don't claim to know why, that's all there is too it. Parental choice prevailed, and fewer joined that team.

Joe Martin, Havertown

Economics of Catholic schools

Monica Yant Kinney highlighted a critical factor in the economics of running a Catholic school: Nuns used to staff the schools for a pittance vs. the current need to pay salaries — modest though they are — for all teachers.

The other much-ignored factor is class size. When I attended St. Monica's in the 1950s and '60s, when Berwyn was just starting to grow, there were 102 wiggling little kids in our combined first- and second-grade classroom that Sister Catherine Agnes, IHM, somehow managed to teach to read and write. Each room included two grades until the "new" school was opened in 1958. If you asked parents today to put their children into a classroom with 101 other little kids, how many would do it?

Katherine Brannick Hatting, St. Monica Class of '63, Berwyn

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