Bishop reconsiders Mooney decision

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Youngstown Catholic Diocese Bishop George Murry backtracked Wednesday on his earlier decision to keep Cardinal Mooney High School in the city, saying the diocese will review that ruling.

On June 4, Murry decided to keep Cardinal Mooney in the city, overruling the school’s board of directors, which voted in favor of moving to the suburbs. The bishop made the decision despite an independent study that concluded the school would sustain better enrollment for a longer period if it moved.

“According to its mission statement, Cardinal Mooney High School is committed to provide a quality Catholic education through sanctity, scholarship, and discipline, developing leaders dedicated to social justice and service in the world. Bishop Murry is convinced that the school can more effectively live out its mission by being a leaven to the community and by providing meaningful service and educational opportunities to its students at its present location.  The decision to remain at its present site emphasizes that the Church is willing to put its resources behind those values,” a statement from the diocese said at the time.

Wednesday’s announcement that the decision was being reconsidered did not sit well with Youngstown City Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, whose 6th ward houses the Catholic high school.

“Our education system is connected to the development and the growth of the city. It is one of our major arteries. We are having a heart attack right now and we are in distress,” Tarpley said after hearing Murry’s announcement.

Murry’s statement said the diocese received new information from Mooney’s board of directors that led him to re-open the discussion about a potential move.

“Some new and very substantial information on the cost of asbestos remediation when you renovate, so the bishop thought that it would be very important to review that decision again,” said Youngstown Catholic Schools Superintendent Nicholas Wolsonovich.

Murry has appointed an independent committee with expertise in Catholic school mission, along with a parent and pastor, to review all information regarding the school’s renovation.

The release said if the recommendation from the committee is not to move, and the bishop reaffirms his earlier decision, school officials will be asked to begin a capital campaign to raise money for the necessary renovations.

If the committee recommends the school relocate the to the suburbs, and the bishop approves that recommendation, he then will ask the school to conduct a financial feasibility study to determine whether there are sufficient resources to build a new school, the diocese said.

Original cost estimates were $18 million to renovate the existing building and $25 million to build a new one in the suburbs, most likely in Boardman. But the price tag to renovate apparently has been driven up by the asbestos removal.

“When you do more than just abate it, capsulate, seal it off and you start to renovate, that is a whole different matter and the costs escalate,” Wolsonovich said.

But Tarpley is optimistic the city can help out in order to keep the school in the city.

“I think there may be some things that we can do as far as grant money to try and help them in the process. So even though it sounds like gloom and doom, I am not ready to give up just yet,” Tarpley said.

Although a lot of Cardinal Mooney supporters, including parents, donors and alumni, wanted the school to leave the South Side, Wolsonovich said that did not play a role in Bishop Murry’s decision to reconsider his previous stance.

“I do not think that played as much into reconsidering or reviewing the decision as much as the asbestos remediation cost,” Wolsonovich said.

Tarpley said she does not want the school to leave the city.

The committee will present its findings to the bishop July 31.

Cardinal Mooney has been located at Erie Street and Indianola Avenue on Youngstown’s South Side since 1956. Its employees pay roughly $80,000 a year in city income tax to Youngstown.

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