A slow-motion crisis quickens

The New York Times seems to be specializing in a new genre of news writing: The decline of the Roman Catholic school. Its most recent story comes from David Gonzalez, who crafts an opening that is equal parts heartbreaking and maddening as it focuses on the principal of St. Martin of Tours Elementary in the Bronx as she introduces the last kindergarten graduation the school will ever hold:  

“We are honored to have with us the future college graduates of …” She paused, bit her lip and looked at the children. Her voice cracked. “Of … 20 … 27.”

Sister Nora praised them for learning about God, reading and respect.

“We look forward to hearing about the progress they make as they continue their educational journey … elsewhere.”

She made it, barely. The “elsewhere” was the killer, as it has been since January, when Sister Nora was told the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York had decided St. Martin’s would close after 86 years. Pleas and plans to save the school were received and rejected. Wednesday was the school’s final day.

The latest closure follows a report this month by Samuel G. Freedman in the Times, which chronicled the final days of Rice High School in Harlem, where 98 percent of the student body was black or Hispanic and where every graduating senior went to college. “It ought to sound an alarm about a slow-motion crisis in American education,” Freedman wrote.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit