View Full Version : Bronx Top NYC Catholic High School Cardinal Hayes in Fight over Future

06-12-2011, 08:11 AM
From WSJ.com (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304259304576375560893107944.html) by Sophia Hollander:
In September 1941, a row of dignitaries including New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia gathered along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. On the spot where squatters' cabins once stood rose an elegant brick-and-stone building that had taken only 11 months to build: Cardinal Hayes High School.

The school—the brainchild of the famed Cardinal Francis Spellman—charged $5 a month for its first class of students, pulled from the poor and working class.

It soon established itself as one of the city's top Catholic high schools, with graduates including Regis Philbin, Martin Scorsese and Jamal Mashburn.

But on June 4, as the current crop of senior boys paraded proudly through St. Patrick's Cathedral for their graduation ceremony and entered the ranks of alumni, they joined a group that has become bitterly divided, riven by distrust and unusually public with its discontent.

On social-media sites, through blistering public letters and in tense private meetings, members of the alumni association have clashed with school administration officials—many of whom are also Hayes graduates.

"You've got Hayesmen fighting against Hayesmen," said Jeffrey Jackson, who graduated in 1982. "It's bad."

Nominally at stake is the structure of the school's alumni association.

But the struggle has come to represent competing visions for the future of Hayes as it attempts to chart a path toward self-sufficiency and avoid the fate of another prominent New York Catholic high school, Rice, which announced its closing last month.

As tuition has risen, enrollment at Cardinal Hayes has fallen 20% in the past six years, precipitating even steeper hikes. Hayes officials are quick to point out that the current $5,900 annual tuition still does not cover the cost of educating students, which they estimate at more than $7,300 per pupil.

Now the school is navigating perhaps its trickiest transition yet: In 2009, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it expected 10 of its Catholic high schools to become financially independent.

No one disputes the need for new funding even though the school has a $13 million endowment, according to recent tax filings. But the president of the current alumni association and others charge that the proposed restructuring would undermine the 30-year-old group's longstanding independence.

Traditionally, the alumni association operated in partnership with the school, running two major fund-raising events a year.

Although the proceeds, which ranged between $70,000 and more than $100,000 a year, were generally given directly to the school, the association sometimes voted to fund specific projects over the years.

In recent months, school officials have suspended the association's by-laws, canceled meetings, shuttered alumni-run social media sites, and assumed control over all funds raised by the association.

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