from the Times:
Catholic schools have been bleeding enrollment and money for years, and many have been forced to close. But some, like St. Stephen of Hungary, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, have found a way to thrive — attracting a more affluent clientele by offering services and classes more commonly found in expensive private schools.I need to start a Catholic school. A real one. A real Catholic school, only with precision teaching.
Selling points include small class sizes and extracurricular activities beginning in the youngest grades. And by often charging far less, these schools have been able to stabilize themselves and even grow.
“Our competition or our standard isn’t another good Catholic school,” said the Rev. Angelo Gambatese, the pastor at St. Stephen of Hungary church, which shares a building with the school. “It’s the best independent schools in Manhattan, and we intend to achieve the same level of performance that they do, academically, developmentally.”
While 70 percent of the students are Catholic, a figure that has not changed, it has a more Franciscan focus on kindness and respect rather than papal edicts, which makes it more palatable to families not traditionally in the Catholic school market.
“I don’t feel like it’s holy rollers over there,” said Richard Sher, a parent of two at the school who is half Jewish, half Protestant.
Mass is every other week; the homily is more of a discussion than a lesson. When Father Gambatese talked in May to the youngest students at Mass about Adam, he wondered why Adam asked God for more humans. “He wanted people to talk to and play with,” Sabrina Vidal, 8, said. “Yes!” Father Gambatese said. “Don’t you get tired of hugging a lion?”
St. Stephen offers the kind of extras found at far more expensive schools, like French for 3-year-olds, violin for fourth and fifth graders, and iPads for sixth to eighth graders. But some parents, Catholic and non-Catholic, said they were also drawn to the discipline and values-based approach at St. Stephen, elements that have fallen out of fashion at most nonreligious schools.
“We were looking for structure, and that’s what we got,” said Deirdre O’Connell, a parent who works in banking.
In Katherine Peck, the entrepreneurial 33-year-old at the heart of St. Stephen’s revitalization, the parents also got a principal schooled in progressive teaching. Classrooms are no longer teacher-focused, with students at desks, but student-centered, with children at tables. Students have publishing parties every month to showcase their writing, textbooks have been de-emphasized in favor of hands-on learning and every classroom has an interactive projection system.
Mrs. Peck, who is Catholic and attended Teachers College of Columbia University, said Catholic schools gave her more flexibility than the public schools where she had taught. (She also taught at the Epiphany School before coming to St. Stephen.) “Everything I was doing at Teachers College, I could do in the classroom,” she said, compared with the public school where she said everyone had to teach from the same page.
To Survive, a Catholic School Retools for a Wealthier MarketBy JENNY ANDERSON | New York Times | Published: August 19, 2012
Of course, I'm not Catholic. So I wouldn't be anyone's first choice to start a Catholic school. Also, the Catholic Church isn't starting new schools, not here in Westchester County anyway. The church is closing them.
Yesterday I taught my first class (freshman composition) in Victory Hall, a building that up until two or three years ago housed a Catholic girls high school. I love teaching in Victory Hall, and I was happy to be assigned a room there again. The place has an aura.
Jimmy's group home, originally built to serve as a convent, has an aura, too.
But when I arrived at Victory Hall, I discovered that I wasn't teaching in the building itself; I was teaching in one of the ancient modulars out back. I didn't even know the modulars were there, and now I'm teaching in one.
Catholic schools used to have so many students they had to buy trailers to expand the plant.
Now they're all going or gone.
Ed has often asked how much longer Chris's Jesuit high school can hold out. It's housed on the same campus with a major education school, and major education schools have no truck with the Jesuit tradition.