Saturday, December 5, 2009

Not dead yet??

“Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated?” Will Dougherty and North survive?

The word on the street is that North may be reincarnated as an independently run "Cristo Rey" school - a Catholic prep school targeted at low-income students whose families can't afford the $5,500-and-up cost of a Catholic education in this city.

Except, says Philadelphia Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell, the story isn't true.

"It's all rumors," Farrell told my colleague Val Russ on Monday, as Val and I worked to get to the bottom of The Rumor. "There have been no negotiations. North Catholic is not going to become a Cristo Rey school and, sadly, North Catholic will be closing in June."

Cristo Rey Network CEO Rob Birdsell was more equivocal. "I can't speak about the specifics of Philadephia," he told Val, neither confirming nor denying that conversations with the Archdiocese have taken place.

But a well-connected North alum familiar with The Rumor tells me that Bishop Joseph McFadden met with four heavy-hitting North alums last week - among them multimillionaire and philanthropist Paul Hondros - to chat about the school.

Also present were others with ties either to the Cristo Rey Network or to the Society of Jesus - the Jesuit order of priests that created the Cristo Rey model.

"They even toured North Catholic on November 11," said the source. "To say that nothing has been discussed isn't true."

Hondros was unavailable for comment yesterday, so I hoped the Rev. Timothy Lannon could enlighten me about what might've gone down in the meeting. Lannon, the Jesuit president of St. Joseph's University, is a close friend of Hondros' (a loyal St. Joe's grad who funded the university's new autism center).

"Lannon is the most high-profile Jesuit in the area," said the North alum. "You can bet that if the Jesuits are thinking of bringing Cristo Rey here, [Lannon] knows about it."

Lannon said that it was "premature to discuss" whether he even had a conversation with Hondros about Cristo Rey, North Catholic and the bishop.

And then he chuckled...
Tracking 'The Rumor' about North Catholic Philadelphia Daily News

A new alumni group yesterday announced plans to save Cardinal Dougherty High School in Olney by buying the building from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for $20 million and reopening it as a private Catholic academy.
Steve Schmidt, chairman of the We Are CD Foundation, said he hand-delivered a letter of intent to the archdiocese's offices in Center City yesterday notifying it of the group's interest in buying the campus at 6201 N. Second St.

He declined to reveal names, but said his organization had spoken with an individual and two banks that are interested in providing $10 million, $5 million and $5 million, respectively, to cover the purchase price.

"It is not made up," said Schmidt, a former teacher at Mercy Vocational High School who now works as a supervisor of a city Recreation Department center in Logan. "We have factual information. We do have an appointment with a bank next Thursday."

The announcement not only stunned the archdiocese but also several business leaders who raise funds for Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

A spokeswoman for Michael O'Neill, chairman of the Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS), a nonprofit that raises funds for Catholic schools, said the developer had no knowledge of the We Are CD Foundation or its plans.

Some active in Catholic education privately expressed skepticism.

Marco Ferreira, a 1990 Dougherty grad who works in the mortgage industry, said the group, which was established Nov. 14, could not disclose prospective financial backers yet.

"We are not at liberty to say anything," said Ferreira, who is assisting Schmidt with the plan...
Alumni group says it would buy, reopen Cardinal Dougherty Philadelphia Inquirer

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