Diocese rejects long-term BVP lease at St. Joan of Arc

Diocese rejects long-term BVP lease at St. Joan of Arc

Official: As new charters open, parochial schools closing

CUMBERLAND – Since its 2009 founding, the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, always scrambling for real estate, has relied in part on Catholic school buildings.

Our Lady of Fatima, St. Patrick Church, and St. Joan of Arc, all in Cumberland, and Elizabeth Seton, in Central Falls, have all been rented or purchased to accommodate the expanding BVP school system.

But perhaps no more.

The Catholic Diocese of Providence is pushing back. Within the past month, it refused to accept BVP’s offer – described as “lucrative” – to extend its lease at St. Joan’s in Cumberland Hill, where BVP’s high school opened in 2014 under a two-year agreement.

When BVP asked to make the arrangement more permanent with a 10-year lease and permission to build onto the classroom space, the answer was no, says Daniel Ferris, superintendent of Catholic Schools. Instead, BVP was granted just an extra year.

Ferris told The Breeze that Bishop Thomas Tobin made that decision based on what is in the best interests of the future of Catholic education programs in Rhode Island.

He and others see BVP high school as a direct competitor with both Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket and St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, Ferris said. The heads of both high schools consulted with Bishop Tobin, who ultimately decided to deny the St. Joan request.

Ferris said the decision was a difficult one and came only after “extensive consultation” and “very deliberate and thoughtful respect for the difficulties of local parishes versus the continued viability of Catholic schools.”

Ferris told The Breeze this week, “We love school choice, we do, but many charter schools do direct solicitation to our Catholic students’ parents.” He estimates that as many as one-third of charter school students were once in Catholic schools.

“We don’ t want to be in the position of compromising 150 years of Diocesan education by making charter schools available in direct competition,” Ferris said.

Ferris also noted that the Diocese had turned down the newest mayoral academy, RISE in Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Burrillville, when it asked for space in the former Our Lady of Victories School in Woonsocket.

“We’ve had other inquiries as well,” Ferris said, explaining that decisions about leasing church properties to charters are being made on a case-by-case basis.

“With RISE, it was clear that it would be detriment to the educational mission of the Diocese,” he said.

Ferris acknowledged empty classroom spaces, saying, “Do we use an underutilized building in a way that undermines our activities or in the best interest of Catholic education?

Across the country, Ferris says, studies are documenting the negative effects of charter schools on Catholic schools.

Rhode Island has seen 20 charter schools open since 1994, says Ferris, and during that same time, the Diocese has closed 20 of its schools. He’s not blaming charters entirely, he says, but contends they have been a factor.

One of the factors, he says, in the rapid decline of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School – which BVP eventually purchased – was the impact of charter schools.

Ferris references research by Abraham Lackman of New York for the Albany Government Law Review that found New York Catholic school enrollment dropped 34 percent in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010, coinciding with the opening of charter schools in New York beginning in 1995.

Lackman’s 2013 study cites the “unintended consequence of the charter school movement,” and linked the closing of 200 Catholic schools in New York with 200 charter schools being opened. In Albany, Catholic school enrollment has dropped 64 percent in the last decade.

His study found Catholic schools lose one student for every three students gained by charter schools.

Ferris notes, too, the impact of a closed Catholic school on taxpayers, as public schools absorb the per-pupil cost of accommodating students whose parents were paying the tuition bill.

Jeremy Chiappetta, BVP executive director, said he “categorically denies” targeting Catholic school students but did say solicitation does reach a spectrum of students and parents. He also noted the majority of students entering BVP are kindergartners who haven’t been enrolled in any schools.

He declined to comment about efforts to find a new high school location or talk at all about the general challenge of finding real estate for the expanding school system.


I do not believe the closing of Catholic schools is by fault of Charter Schools. I believe with the economy, families are unable to afford the HIGH tuitions. Also, I do not think it is fair that families who cannot afford to send their children to Catholic school do not have the same chance of an equal education at a Charter School. Stop blocking the way for Charter Schools!!

Right, they don't target those students, but they plaster a sticker to the front page of the Breeze every year (if not more than once a year) to try to drum up application/lottery entries. Who is funding that kind of advertisement? Oh right, the sending districts and the children and schools who are losing money directly because of them (but still beating them in rankings, scores, teacher retention, and overall student experience).

LAZANNI1965 - Students in Cumberland and Lincoln and even some in Central Falls and Pawtucket (yes, really!) get a pretty darn good education from their traditional public schools. Charter schools were supposed to be created as incubators of new ideas that, once tried and proven successful, should be disseminated widely, not money making ventures whose goal is to grow grow grow. Right now, the only incubator of new ideas I see in Cumberland is Community School, which gave us our bubble maps!

Overall, about 8 percent of charter elementary students and 11 percent of middle and high school students are drawn from private schools. In highly urban districts, private schools contribute 32, 23, and 15 percent of charter elementary, middle, and high school enrollments,respectively. http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/PA707.pdf
" Catholic schools seem particularly vulnerable, especially for elementary students in large metropolitan areas."

Does not sound like the christian thing to do. Rather than provide opportunity to families that can't afford a catholic school education, the diocese decides to "follow the money"

Don't get me wrong here...as to my subject line comment, as I unequivocally will state the fact that I think the existing Charter Schools, the Mayoral Academies among them, are providing their students the finest education of any schools in the State of Rhode Island...sans the private and Catholic schools.

So why am I so vehemently against these Charter Schools?

Having been involved in Vocational Education, from within the Private Sector since 1970, and having served 6-years on the School Committee, 8-more on CHS2010, I am 110% of the philosophy that ALL students should be being afforded the absolute BEST education society/government can provide….not a small select few. And that is, especially, to any extent, it is based on race, family income, and/or any other social-economic logic and reasoning. Logic and reasoning that is ALL WRONG….it personifying ‘Reverse Racism’ at its worse against the So-Called “Privileged’ White Community!

Such, while the selection process for entry into Charter Schools is wrong, getting a top notch education in today’s world is possible….and the Charter Schools are proving this fact out.

The existing Public School System is broken....destroyed from within because of the Unions, because of all of the Do-Gooder, Feel Good implementation of teaching philosophies mandated by ludicrous laws and mandates that need be removed...once and for all.

Without being mean and cruel here, as I have a lot of experience with and around ‘Special Ed, Special Needs Children’, the fact remains "You Cannot Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow's Ear' no matter how many millions of dollars are squandered trying to do so.

There are many reasons for the success of the Charter Schools....and many of those reasons are that they do not have to subscribe to, or adhere, the many ludicrous, “Over-The-Top” regulations, mandates, etc. (Inclusion, for one, etc.) that the Public Schools must adhere to.

More-so, in many, may ways Charter School Students (And, THEY ARE NOT SCHOLARS) are being taught the way was once done....a method that had, for centuries, proved itself to be the best way to do so. That is until, again, the unions, the do-gooders, etc., etc. decided to, supposedly, level the playing field, by Dumbing-Down the educational process so that while, students were no longer learning or achieving to the standards they once did, everyone felt good about their MEDIOCRITY!

The time has come to accept and learn from what the Charter Schools are doing....free from a lot of binds placed on the existing Public School Model, and implement the real change that need be made to insure a quality education for all students, based on their needs and how they need be taught.

And, it is not, as many pundits, especially here in Cumberland, such as School Committee Woman, Lisa Beaulieu, and her cohorts, constantly espouse….the spending of more money!

We, as parents, citizens, taxpayers, etc. need to demand that ALL of our children, especially those without Special Needs, are all treated equally, and taught in a manner know to be successful.

Lastly, as to ALL of our Special Needs Students, regardless as to what those needs may be....they must be afforded every, reasonable, opportunity possible to learn and be as successful as they can be...given their limitations. However, they must be given those opportunities in an environment of their needs...separate from the rest of the system's student body!

Also, just as the State is now providing the dollars needed for their busing, we also need to go back in time fro when the State was paying for these students’ medical needs. At present, a goodly amount of the money that Lisa Beaulieu and others are constantly bellowing be provided, is being spent on the ‘Medical needs’ of our Special Ed students.

Again, I have no issues with our providing for whatever are the needed educational needs our Special Ed students need be provided….but, based on many, many years of first hand experience, I do not believe that the parents of these students, many once referred to as: “Severe and Profound” should be having all of their medical needs, and they do often amount to tin the tens of millions in some communities, coming out of the community’s school system’s budget.

Wonder what the comments will be when my application gets approved for a " Military Academy " in the Blackstone Valley ???

Alpha Racer, Can you limit your response to 2 paragraphs please.

AlfaRacer1...as a Mom of "special ed" kids, I am highly offended by some of the statements you made in your post. Why should my kid be taught "separate from the rest of the student body"? Lincoln system did that to my kid when she attended Northern Lincoln Elementary School. We moved there because Lincoln had a very good reputation for the special education program. The research I did lead me in the wrong direction. They shoved her in a window-less tiny room with 2 other students and those were the only kids she knew. No integration equals no friends equals no social skills equals one VERY lonely little girl! Would you honestly want that for your child? We lasted 1 year and then brought us back to Cumberland. Even with an IEP, my daughter struggled everyday to make it through. Cumberland didn't go any further than they needed to encourage my daughters success, but at least she was in a standard classroom at Garvin. The problem there was they were so slack in their teaching that my daughter completely failed the 5th grade, but she was elevated to McCourt Middle School because "she knew how to do the work, she just doesn't want to do it" ...set up to continue her failure because I couldn't afford the alternative of private schooling or tutors. Everyday was a fight to get her either on the bus or to keep her in school instead of the nurses office. She hated being there and it showed.

By the end of 8th grade she was 4 grade levels behind in the basics (reading, writing, math and such) and time was ticking away. BVP was the answer. We were very lucky to be selected for 9th grade placement with the first attempt at the lottery!

It's been 5 months at BVP High School and my daughter has risen 3 grade levels at least, in all academic facets. AND, she has lost only 1 day to sickness (huge improvement over last year)! She has a 10 hour school day and gets off the bus with a giant smile on her face everyday. Massive change in every aspect of my daughter and I have BVP to thank for that.

After reading the comments you made regarding special needs kids and their education, it make sense to me now why my kid was so miserable. For someone that says to have "a lot of experience with and around Special Ed. Special need students" your view of these kids seems course and callous. If that's the concensus of other educators in town run schools, then it's understandable why my child hated being there so much. Regarding your "sows ear" vomit...that had to be the most reprehensible statement I have ever heard made against children! All I can say is I hope special needs kids no longer have to deal with you because they deserve better.

To others readers of this post, I apologize for its length. I was SO offended by the aforementioned comment that I had to respond. Trust me, I could have gone on much longer than this!

Mr. Letourneau

Special Education laws apply to ALL public schools regardless of whether they are district, charter, or mayoral academy. One of the very reasons that laws were put in place was to protect a vulnerable population of children from discrimination from heinous people like you.

Lisa Beaulieu

The Bishop does know his rear from his elbow. Did you know when a church is closed, he will not let the parish sell it, in turn he wants parishioner's to keep up the repairs. So that's real stupid. I'll tell you this, if I had a church close and had to repair it I'd send

the bills to the Great Bishop Tobin.

Every time I read Letourneau I think of that told adage, “No one is useless, you can always serve as a bad example."

I think it is time that Tom Letourneau should retire to that home in Florida he occasionally talks about. Basically he is just an old man who has lost touch with reality. He has an opinion about everything and only his opinion is the correct one.

Mr. Letourneau seems to be a master at everything but a bigot in disguise.

His spewing reminds me of another guy from Europe who wanted the lily white race. Times have changed.

Go away and retire and write comments in the local Florida newspaper.

I do not believe that the closure of Catholic schools is the fault of Charter Schools. I believe that with the economy, families are able to afford high tuition fees. Also, I do not think it is fair to families that can not afford to send their children to Catholic schools do not have equal chances of an equal education in charter schools.http://www.examcollectionvce.com/vce-2V0-620.html

Catholic schools have been closing for 43 years. (First one I remember). It's not the fault of Charters.

A couple of times mayoral academy is listed separate from charters; isn't the MA a charter? glad some in the know, know.

The problem there was they were so slack in their teaching that my daughter completely failed the 5th grade but she was elevated to McCourt Middle School because she knew how to do the work she just doesn want to do it