We can all get a little desensitized to news about closing Catholic schools. However, the announcement in January that the Jubilee Schools would be closing after the 2018-19 year deserves special recognition. First, we need to recognize how significant the Jubilee Schools were to Catholic urban education as well as to consortium models. I spoke to the founding superintendent, Dr. Mary McDonald, about it in this podcast after she had left Jubilee Schools, which under her leadership were able to reopen closed schools, raise a $38 million endowment, and provide a model for sustainable Catholic schools in the inner cities. They served the poor, they served the non-Catholic, and they were a beacon of hope.
Read about the closure of Jubilee Schools here. The Diocese has announced that 2 of the schools will close and the rest will become charter schools in 2019. Our Catholic schools will have 1500 less students and 9 fewer schools. There will be a reduced Catholic footprint in Memphis and the success of the Jubilee network will become a footnote.
Contrast that news with the Our Sunday Visitor article from January 2010 which painted a rosy picture of the schools or the website which touts the status of the Jubilee schools as trailblazers or “the most successful model of all” on their webpage.
This is an inflection point in the history of Catholic schools. It might be a harbinger of more closures to come. Or we might learn from this event and improve the landscape. I have gathered guest blogs on the decision to close the Jubilee schools and I challenge you to read them. These blogs will cause you to consider the mission and value of Catholic schools and will cause you to re-think your own school’s strategies for sustainability. They also make a strong argument for school choice and for rejecting the notion that “wrap-around” charters are a panacea.
It harkens back to the argument in Lost Classroom, Lost Community by Garnett & Brinig. They argue that Catholic schools should be able to be authorized as charter operators. After all, the Catholic school system has proven to be the most effective alternative to public schools and its main features—namely, rigor, character formation, safety, sense of community—are all copied by charter schools. If we could just get past the religious bias in this country, perhaps we would have a solution.
This week I present reactions to the announcement that the Jubilee Schools in Memphis will be closing in 2019 and will reopen as charters. This is sad and disheartening news and I want to make sure to draw everyone’s attention to its significance. To that end, I am presenting guest blog reactions to the news which suggest a path forward. I also include a few articles and Catholic school news at the end of the newsletter due to the fact that this is my last “live” version of Catholic School Matters. Next week, I’ll present my “Best Of The Spring” chock full of the most popular links from each issue.
I’ll draw your attention here to the guest blogs for those of you who don’t click through to the newsletter:
- Bill Hughes of Seton Catholic schools (Milwaukee) penned the essay “The Next 200 Years: a Post Mortem of the Once Promising Jubilee Catholic Schools” in edchoice.
- Christian Dallavis, the Senior Director of Leadership Programs at ACE (Notre Dame), contributed a blog on the impact of the closing of the Jubilee Schools and the fallacy of charter conversions taking the place of Catholic schools. It’s a powerful argument for Catholic schools.
- RaeNell Houston, the first year superintendent of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic schools, contributed this blog on her reaction to the closing of the Jubilee Schools and the lessons she drew from the decision as well as the impact on all of our schools.
- Bernard Dumond, founder & CEO of Development Innovations 360, wrote a piece entitled “The Audacity of Indifference” which serves as a call to action for all Catholic schools.
- Tom Kiely, the Director of the Institute for Catholic Leadership at Marquette University, wrote this blog reacting to the news of the closing of Jubilee Schools. In the piece, he recommends how schools should be confronting the challenges and draws attention to this summer’s Congress of Urban Catholic School networks scheduled for July in Milwaukee.
- Joseph Hollowell, the president of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, researched the conversion of Catholic schools to charter as part of his dissertation. He discusses the research and lessons that we can all learn from these decisions in Washington, DC, Florida, and Indiana in this blog post.
- Stephanie Saroki de Garcia of Seton Partners penned “American Education Needs More Miracles” on the edexcellence/Gadfly blog.
- Kathleen Porter-Magee of Partnership Schools (NYC) produced “To Spark a Catholic School Renaissance, We Need to Put Our Faith in Autonomous School Networks” in the edexcellence blog. Dr. Porter-Magee addresses the systemic problems in Catholic schools and makes suggestions for improvements.
Have a great week!