Sunday, November 8, 2009

Potential buyers to look at Savio

Word is that representatives from North Cambridge Catholic High School will be looking at the former location of Savio High School in East Boston as a possible future site. NCC, currently located just off Mass. Ave. about a mile northwest of Porter Square, apparently needs to move and has been negotiating with the Archdiocese of Boston for a building that housed another school near Savin Hill in Dorchester. After eight months the two sides still seem far apart with regard to price, so the school's board wants to look elsewhere.

NCC is one of 24 schools that are part of the Cristo Rey Network, which educates urban teens using "a unique program that requires students to work one day a week with a corporate sponsor in order to subsidize their tuition," according to Time magazine, which called the program "an island of success in the Catholic ocean."

Savio shut down in June of 2007 due to financial difficulties. The school, run by the Salesian order of the Catholic Church, opened its doors in 1958 as St. Domenic Savio High School. After several decades of success (I graduated in 1981), the Salesians announced that they needed to close down the school, but the community expressed outrage and a number of accomplished alumni stepped forward and negotiated a deal. The doors opened in the fall of 1993 as Savio Preparatory High School, and though the institution wasn't shut for any school days, a significant number of faculty members and students had moved on. By the mid-2000s the school was in trouble again and nothing would save it.

While the gym building has been utilized as the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, the classroom building -- a brick structure at the corner of Horace and Byron streets (see photo) -- is older and needs quite a bit of work. Plaster is falling inside rooms and offices, tiles are chipped and broken, there's been some water damage and there's a musty smell throughout. It's been said that the building needs "hundreds of thousands of dollars" worth of work. The visit by NCC is only an initial step, and it remains to be seen whether this is simply a tactic by the school to spur on the negotiations with the archdiocese for the Dorchester site.

The irony here is that Savio was one of the places that Cristo Rey initially considered back when the program first came to scout sites in Boston at some point just as the organization was forming about a decade ago. I was on the faculty at the time, and Savio's leadership quickly squashed the idea. Cristo Rey kept looking and discovered that NCC was an ailing Catholic high school willing to embrace the innovative approach.


Michael said...

Short-sighted move by Savio administrators. Seven/Eight years ago, when Cristo Rey were scouting to expand to Boston, they were a great idea. Now, The Cristo Rey Network is a national powerhouse in urban education with support from some major national donors including the Gates Foundation.

N.starluna said...

The Cristo Rey model is impressive. I personally like their commitment to diversity at their schools.