Catholic Schools Questions

Today is the annual Catholic Schools convocation, when school leaders, principals and pastors of parish-based schools gather at the Pastoral Center to get inspiration and information about what is happening in Catholic schools these days and the vision and direction going forward.

As we blogged about yesterday, we assume that a full report on the results of the Campaign for Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative is part of the agenda, given it is now 2011 and the campaign should be complete.

But people have a lot of other questions about what is happening in the schools, especially given the $325,000 salary of Schools Superintendent, Mary Grassa O’Neill, combined salaries of about $1 million for her and her team of assistant superintendents, and total 2010 Catholic School central administration expenditures of about $1.4M according to the 2010 Central Ministries Budget.

As blog reader, A.J. Constantino and others have asked about in the past on the blog, we will be all ears to hear if they discuss basics today like the following:

  • Mission Statement of the Office of Catholic Schools for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.  Does that mission state a prime commitment to the authentic teachings of our Catholic faith?  (BCI: or are we building schools to “rebuild the faith,” as Jack says, which are really more like academically excellent public schools with a “Catholic” name?)
  • What initiatives are Dr. O’Neill and her team developing?  Why are they being developed?  How do they strengthen our schools?
  • What resources (human and monetary) are in place to support these initiatives?
  • What are the goals, what is the plan, what actions or steps will be taken to meet the goals, and how all of the steps and goals measured?

In addition, other readers would like to know how the superintendent verifies the Catholic identity is maintained in the schools, a canonical responsibility of the archbishop.  What happens when it is not maintained?   What has the archdiocese done over the past 4 months to address the concerns about Catholic identity at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston as described here?

Those questions are the accountability that the people of God, pastors, school leaders, and donors should expect answers to–especially when $1.4M+ in donor contributions are funding the Catholic Schools.

We could not make today’s session due to other commitments, so whoever attends today, please drop us a line and let us know how many of these questions are answered.

11 Responses to Catholic Schools Questions

  1. Dotty Banks says:

    If teachers choose to refuse the lump sum and retire with their pension before Dec.31, 2011,(after that date I understand the pension will not be funded) will they be guaranteed that benefit for their lifetime?

    The representative from the CSO office seemed to be encouraging employees to take the money and run. Clearly,she was implying that the pension might not be there for any amount of time.

    Teachers at my school are confused…..can anyone clear this up for us?

    • Objective Observer says:

      In general, the taking of a lump sum benefits the employer far more than the employee. RCAB cannot just shrug off its legal obligation to maintain the benefit fund and make timely payments according to the term of your pension. Paying you a lump sum can be determined according to a wide range of criteria.

      In general, employees should not take a lump sum. There are exceptions to this guidance. If others reading this blog can share their professional guidance, it would be a huge benefit to all those the Archdiocese owes money in the form of pensions.

    • Carolyn says:


      Maybe Father Hehir should have run down the Ten Commandments as part of his talk on Catholic Identity. And maybe the woman who spoke to you about pensions should have paid close attention to the 8th commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

      You stated that, “The representative from the CSO office seemed to be encouraging employees to take the money and run. Clearly,she was implying that the pension might not be there for any amount of time.”

      This is a very serious statement. I have no doubt whatsoever that you were given this impression, or that the impression was intentionally conveyed. Legally and ethically, implying to employees that their pension fund might not be there some day to induce the taking of a lump sum now, leaves RCAB open to sanctions under state and federal regulations. If this was done as an inducement to people to take a lump sum payout to relieve RCAB of its grave obligations under the rules governing pensions, then someone needs to blow a whistle.

      RCAB has a very serious fiduciary duty to use best efforts to maintain full funding for its pension obligations, and it must pay out for the lives of those so covered, and to a survivor under that election in the pension plan (if you elected to have a survivor covered they must do so). Short of filing bankruptcy for all of Corporation Sole, they cannot be relieved of any measure of this obligation. There are serious penalties for the breach of fiduciary duty that would trigger the failure of a pension plan, or for squandering the money in the pension trust. There are few corporate obligations the government will enforce as severely as this one. so unless Carol Gustavson is planning on squandering millions of dollars, the statement the person made today cannot be supported in fact.

      Bottom line: Teachers and others need to write to Carol Gustavson, the fiduciary charged with managing the benefit fund, and demand that she provide written assurance of the pension trust’s solvency, and of the pension trust’s intention to honor its serious legal obligation to protect and grow the pension fund. If she cannot do that for every person who makes the demand, it’s time for a lot of people to hire one lawyer, share the cost, and ask the government to intervene. Carol is a lawyer, remember? She knows better. Did she give the script to the person who spoke today?

      Teachers may be cooperative, but they are not sheep. Do not let anyone bamboozle you into taking an action that is not verifiably in your best interest. If taking the lump sum is not in your best interest, don’t do it. If you are given a strong set of reasons to take the lump sum by your accountant or some other highly qualified person who knows your situation, follow that guidance. But generally lump sums let the corporation (in this case RCAB) wash their hands of a pension obligation to the detriment of the employee.

      Think of the example of the lottery winner who “won” $170 million today in the state of Washington, but that amount is before taxes, and paid out over 20 years. The lump sum he took today is $90 million. Lottery winners like lump sums because although they are smaller than the advertised amount of the winnings, they are still huge, and it gives them a chance to invest or donate large amounts NOW. Individual pensions are much smaller amounts. Generally people are better off receiving them over the course of years as cash flow, because the pension trust can invest their very large trust amount at a much higher rate than can the individual, so the return is far better than if you invested the lump sum payout you would be entitled to.

      The same goes for every employee of RCAB. What’s going away on December 31 is the ability to pay into the pension trust. The pension trust itself is not going away.

      Carol Gustavson and Jim Walsh need to write a more ethical script for the people who speak to teachers. The fear tactics don’t pass regulatory muster, and they sure don’t pass the test of the 8th commandment.

  2. “… so whomever attends today, please drop us a line …”

    Oooops! Perhaps Catholic schools should place more emphasis on the subjective/objective case distinction.

    • Good catch. Sorry for the grammatical error–in the last sentence, no less. Glad to see we kept your attention through the end of the post! We fixed it, and will brush up on the subjective/objective distinction.

  3. Carolyn says:

    The more I think about what Dotty wrote, the madder I get. If what Dotty stated is accurate, that she was left with the feeling that she might not have anything if she doesn’t take the lump sum, Mary Grassa O’Neill, Carol Gustavson and Jim McDonough all are accountable for this shameful deceit. They really should resign. This is about as low as it gets. Besides, their combined compensation packages with benefits would free up nearly $1,000,000.00 that could go right into that pension trust fund.

  4. Ridiculous says:

    Deceit is nothing new in the CSO. It has been a regular practice since the 2010 initiative began. My former principal came back from the first meeting and shook her head. It was her impression that this initiative was formed to end Catholic education. I have to say I agree. My children are no longer in RCAB schools…I couldn’t justify spending the money to have the values I was trying to instill demolished.

    I am saddened that the business of the 2010 initiative is taking away the Catholic identity of the school system and has never been focused on the religious aspect of the schools in which the children should be learning to live their faith by example. From what I’ve seen, the teachers are not hired because of their skills or because of their strong Catholic beliefs. Quite the contrary, teachers are hired because of who they know and many are not even Catholic, nevermind practicing Catholics. In one school that I know of, teachers have extra planning time because they cannot teach religion as they are not Catholic. Other teachers are hired to teach that one class or have to balance extra classes in order to have those classes covered. There is little to no oversight by the CSO to maintain records for religion teacher certification and professional development in that area. Just a few years ago, that was a priority of the CSO of the RCAB.

    I am not sure why these institutions are even called Catholic schools. They are merely private schools housed on church propery.

  5. […] yesterday’s post, Catholic School Questions, the comments revealed how the archdiocese is implying to employees that their pension fund might […]

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