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New York Archdiocese gets new schools chief


A new superintendent will take the helm of Catholic Schools in the nation’s second-largest archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced Tuesday.

Michael Deegan, a Bronx native who has served as interim superintendent since April, will assume control of the 62,000-student Archdiocese of New York school system effective immediately.

“As Catholic school systems across the country rise to face the challenges of our modern cultural and educational landscape, we are blessed to have Mr. Deegan guiding the archdiocese's schools,” Dolan said.

Deegan’s predecessor, Dr. Timothy McNiff, announced his retirement in January. Before taking the superintendent job, Deegan was a deputy superintendent, principal and teacher in New York Catholic schools.

The New York Archdiocese covers Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx, as well as Westchester, Rockland and other nearby counties. Almost half of its students come from New York City.

The state’s Catholic schools, like those across the country, are facing an enrollment crisis. Catholic school rolls nationwide dropped from over 5 million in the ‘60s to under 2 million in 2014, and last year the Archdiocese of New York shuttered seven schools for low enrollment.

That will be one immediate challenge for Deegan, who said he plans to oversee aggressive recruitment efforts to ensure families that “Catholic schools are alive and well.”

Parochial schools, which have traditionally offered an alternative to public schools at a fraction of the cost of independent private ones, face stiff competition from the state’s charter schools – privately-run and publicly-funded tuition-free schools.

Deegan acknowledged the archdiocese faces a “balancing act between providing the children what they deserve,” and making the schools affordable for low to middle income families. He said average tuition hovers between $5-6,000 a year, and about 40% of students get scholarship aid.

Financial resources remain a challenge, even after $40 million in annual aid from the archdiocese, he said. Deegan hopes to improve the schools’ technology selection, expand special education offerings, and increase focus on math and science.