Friday, August 04, 2006

From the Prep

Some of you might remember the announcement a couple weeks back that Fr Bill Byron, the former president of the University of Scranton and Catholic University, would return to his alma mater at the age of 78 as president of Philly's St Joseph's Prep High School.

Well, as the Prep's alums and devotees now find themselves the world over, the story of the unpleasantness of the recent months hit the hometown Inky the other day.
The Prep had a tumultuous 2005-06 academic year that included a cheating scandal and the midyear resignations of several teachers. Then, in mid-June, the Rev. Bruce M. Bidinger, the president who had been laying the groundwork for a $30 million capital campaign, abruptly resigned as of July 7.

His sudden departure after four years put the prestigious Jesuit boys' school in the unusual position of replacing its two top administrators at once. The Rev. Thomas Clifford, 54, the principal, had earlier announced he was leaving for health reasons.

"That is a lot of change to have in one year," said Tom Elliott, the departing president of the Fathers' Club....

Though he is credited with reaching out to alumni across the country, Bidinger, 54, faced controversy on campus. Some current and former staffers say Bidinger's brusque, sometimes dictatorial management style alienated many. Several respected teachers and administrators left during his tenure.

"It was either his way or the highway," said William Scott, a former Advanced Placement government teacher who reached a confidential settlement with the school after Bidinger accused him of mishandling student funds and fired him in 2003. Scott denies the allegations.

Bidinger, who has taken an administrative post at St. Joseph's University, declined requests to comment.

A 32 year-old was recruited from a Jesuit school in Omaha as the new principal, and Bidinger has resurfaced as an assistant to the dean at St Joseph's University's Haub School of Business.

It's a long piece, but worthwhile reading as a bit of many currents running through Catholic education these days is in it.

For the record: when those days were upon us, I came close to going to the Prep. But the $395,000 annual tuition (or thereabout) was just a bit too much to bear. I did want to go to college, after all, so I stayed in public school.

Whatever the case, I'm getting quite the Jesuit education now -- and for free, no less.

I was talking a few weeks back with a cardinal who's a product of Jesuit schooling and recently gave a Tri-Jubilee talk to the Society which had 'em in tears. When I told him this, he said that he wanted to let today's Jebbies know "that I was grateful, and that it left an indelible mark."

Suffice it to say, in all the best ways, he was onto something.