St. Dominic’s Supporters Fight For School’s Survival

There are three months left in the academic year, and the fight to keep St. Dominic’s School alive is coming down to the wire.

Parents, alumni, faculty members and members of the Van Nest community converged at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of New York on First Avenue between 55th and 56th streets in Manhattan to protest the scheduled closing of St. Dominic’s School at the end of the 2010-2011 academic school year.

The Archdiocese plans to close over 10 Catholic schools throughout New York City, saying they are not financially solvent, but advocates for St. Dominic’s want one more year to prove their plan to save the school can work.

Bernadette Ferrara, a member of the St. Dominic’s class of 1969 whose son also graduated in from there in 2008, is also vice president of Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance and a strong supporter of the school.

“We had the police meetings there, parents meetings there,” Ferrara said.“They’ve opened their doors to any kind of community meetings and events. It basically held the community together.”

The New York Archdiocese owns the school building located at 1684 White Plains Road and Ferrara feels that the property is likely to be rented once the school ceases operations to a new tenant who will be inhospitable to vital community meetings.

Supporters of St. Dominic’s see the closing as a money-grab by the Archdiocese that is antithetical to its purpose as an institution.

“This is what big corporations do, but the New York Archdiocese has a different mission,” Ferrara said. “If they want to operate like a corporation, take away their tax-exempt status. It’s being done in a very unprofessional way.”

In late 2010, schools slated for closing were given the chance to present the Archdiocese with a final plan on how they could boost revenue and be financially solvent. St. Dominic’s was deemed insufficient.

“I’m surprised by that reaction,” said Fran Davies of the Archdiocese. “The reconfiguration offered an opportunity to present an alternate plan and St. Dominic’s didn’t present the viability that other schools did. They did work very hard on their plan, but unfortunately it didn’t demonstrate the sustainability moving forward.”

Certain schools also had the chance to merge with others nearby, but the Archdiocese did not see that as an option for St. Dominic’s.

While many people in Van Nest and lower Morris Park are having a hard time dealing with the closing of the school, Ferrara said the students are taking it the hardest.

“These kids are having emotional meltdowns in class, and teachers are telling me,” Ferrara said. “They want to graduate from St. Dom’s. This is where they went all these years.”

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