Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cardinal Dougherty: The People Wanna Buy It

A new foundation dedicated to keeping the doors open at CD are asking the archdiocese to discuss selling the school to them.

Cardinal Dougherty: The People Wanna Buy It

Steve Schmidt, seen here at a Cardinal Dougherty "save our school" rally in October, is leading the mission to purchase the school.
Steve Schmidt, seen here at a Cardinal Dougherty "save our school" rally in October, is leading the mission to purchase the school.

This morning at 9:30am, if you’re in front of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia headquarters at 222 N. 17th St., and if you see a huge crowd of people wearing Cardinal Dougherty High School jackets, don’t ask anyone inside for an explanation.

Stay outside, and look for the big, bald guy whipping the crowd into a frenzy of hope.

His name is Steve Schmidt, he’s a 1985 Dougherty alum, and he’s got a plan to save the school from closing next June.

He wants to buy the building.

More accurately, he wants the We Are CD Foundation – an organization so new its website went live only about an hour ago – to purchase the landmark school at 6301 N. 2nd St. - and run it as an independent Catholic school.

This morning, he’s delivering a letter of intent to Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden to let him know that We Are CD would like “to review the current and past operational reports along with any supporting documentation tied to the value of Cardinal Dougherty High School and its personal assets.”

Then they want to turn the documents over to a group of investors Schmidt says have emerged in the last few weeks, who are interested in keeping the school up and running.

The archdiocese “doesn’t know we’re coming,” says Schmidt, chairman of We Are CD Foundation. “Hey, they didn’t give us any notice that they were closing our school. We had to go to a website to find out. So the archdiocese will find out what we’re up to when we show up.”

Schmidt says he and veteran Dougherty science teacher Theresa Hooten met with McFadden earlier this week to discuss issues that students, parents and teachers are having regarding the school’s closing next June.

The congenial and helpful meeting inspired him, he says, to pursue an idea that’s been buzzing in his head for weeks: To have the Dougherty community – i.e., alums and other supporters – take over the school.

Obviously, this is a crazy notion in progress – Schmidt says he was told it would take $20 million, a huge sum, to acquire the keys to the building – so stay tuned for details as they develop.

But meantime, I’ve gotta say:

I’m inspired by the devotion of these parents and teachers to their school – which, by every standard except financial ones, is a truly successful one.  You sure can’t say that about every school in this city, including the public and charter ones which some Dougherty students will have to attend when Dougherty closes.

It’s no wonder they’re refusing to take no for an answer.

Here's the We Are CD mission statement:

The WE ARE CD Foundation is a non-profit group created to advocate for the preservation of Cardinal Dougherty High School by presenting facts and supporting evidence to the local media, the public, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The foundation values the superior Catholic education provided to the students of Cardinal Dougherty High School through the school’s unique academic and social attributes. The foundation also collaborates with alumni, current students and parents to raise funds that will assist current Cardinal Dougherty Students with any transitional costs incurred due to the Archdiocese’s plan of action. The Foundation undertakes these efforts with faith in the school motto, CRUCIS IN SIGNO VINCES - CONQUER IN THE SIGN OF THE CROSS.

Above all, the foundation will embody the spirit of the Cardinal Dougherty community under the motto, “WE ARE CD, WE ARE ONE”.

God bless the garnet and gold!

Daily News Columnist
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Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.

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