March 8, 2013

Letters to the editor: Catholic schools strive to welcome all

Cheverus and Catherine McAuley high schools seem to be a thorn in the side of some of our good Irish folks (Elizabeth Flaherty and Coleman P. Gorham) as they write to the editor of the Portland Press Herald.

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Students in a drawing and painting class get a lesson in perspective outside Cheverus High School in a 2008 photo. Bethany Potter uses a ruler to gauge building details as teacher John Frisoli helps Eliot Pickering. Cheverus and McAuley make scholarship money available so students from diverse backgrounds can access what the schools have to offer, readers say.

2008 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

Mr. Gorham, in his letter of Feb. 25 ("Catholic high schools focus on gifted at others' expense"), decries the fact, whether true or untrue, that Cheverus and McAuley are now only affordable to those who have money.

I raised money for McAuley High School for 12 years, encouraging people to donate for scholarships so that we would be able to educate the poor. And indeed we do. The graduates of Cathedral, St. Joseph's Academy, McAuley, parents and friends were very generous.

I suggest Mr. Gorham think about a scholarship to McAuley in honor of a loved one so even more poor can be taken care of.

"Choice" is a much-used word. We have a choice in everything in our good old USA. Why not a choice in our education?

Cheverus High and McAuley High provide a choice. Some students need smaller environments in which to thrive. Some students need to leave their public schools for various reasons. A mother once told me that she was sure her daughter would have committed suicide if she had not had a choice of another high school.

One thing is for certain: At Cheverus and McAuley, religion is taught. That subject cannot be taught in the public schools, nor in the charter schools.

Portland definitely needs our two Catholic high schools. I suggest that those who think we are not doing enough for the poor should themselves "step up to the plate" and provide some scholarship funds.

Sister Joyce B. Mahany, RSM

Standish

In response to Coleman Gorham's letter "Catholic high schools focus on gifted at others' expense," it is important to illuminate some facts about admissions, financial aid and student support at Cheverus High School.

With deep reverence and appreciation for the hard work and success of our counterparts in the local public schools, I am obliged to defend and promote our good work and inclusivity.

More than 64 percent of the students currently enrolled at Cheverus receive financial aid. More than $1.9 million was awarded to 324 student families for the 2012-2013 school year. Many deserving students would not be able to access a Cheverus High School education without these funds.

There are many students at Cheverus High School with unique challenges and identified learning disabilities. We have a hardworking "Instructional Support" faculty whose purpose is to address the needs of these students.

Additionally, faculty at Cheverus are committed to "cura personalis," a guiding principle of Jesuit education. This means "care of the entire person." Faculty seek to understand and address the unique challenges and gifts of every student.

Keeping this important information in mind, Mr. Gorham's use of the term "elite" is misguided. Students at Cheverus are unapologetically held to high standards of academic achievement. They are given various opportunities for service to the community, spiritual growth, academic and athletic excellence.

If high standards and expectations are elitism, than yes, we are elite. Admittedly, because of the cost, many potential students never even fill out an application. This is a great sadness for our community.

In John's Gospel, we hear Jesus say: "Come and see." Jesus never imposes, but he does invite. Anyone seeking a high-quality, classical education, grounded in a religious tradition is warmly invited to attend. I hope you will knock on our door.

(Continued on page 2)

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