Tonawanda News

February 28, 2014


The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’m writing in response to the Feb. 12 letter by Christian Riso, assistant superintendent of government programs for the Buffalo Diocese, regarding busing for St. Francis of Assisi School families.

There were so many responses that raced through my mind after reading that letter I hardly knew where to begin. I can only imagine how Barb Tucker reacted after reading it, she’ll probably still be typing hours after I’m done!

But honestly, my first response was anger. Putting aside Mr. Riso’s overall “smug “ tone, does the diocese honestly think we’re that stupid and ignorant? I’m a resident of North Tonawanda and this may come as a shock to you Mr. Riso, but guess what ... we tried getting busing 4 years ago when the diocese shut down the last remaining Catholic school in town. We petitioned and sat at board meetings. We did what any parents would do for their children, we raised our voices and fought for them. Much like we’re doing now. Given the only choices we had left, one of those choices was St. Francis of Assisi School in the City of Tonawanda, and it’s a choice I’m glad we made! It turned out to be the right decision for my kids and for many other NT families left searching for a new school for their children. St. Francis was and still is the right fit for our families and for many new families that continue to enroll despite the current threat of closure.

But let’s assume for a moment that we pursue busing for our children and, by some miracle, actually get it. Now our school taxes skyrocket, just to put our children on buses that will travel much greater distances (which for some kids may mean 3 to 4 hours daily on a bus), only to get to a school with much higher tuition. Does that sound like a viable option to you? Well it’s not. Certainly not for the low to moderate income families that can barely afford the current tuition and are paying too much in taxes already. The kind of families St. Francis currently serves. Besides, the city turned us down 4 years ago for busing to get us to St. Francis, what do you think the city’s going to say now that St. Francis is being taken away? Do you realize that the closest Catholic school in Niagara County is in Niagara Falls?

Then again, maybe cutting out families that can’t afford a Catholic education is part of the diocese’s plan. It sure looks that way.

Let’s be honest, Mr. Riso’s letter was a feeble attempt to take the heat off the diocese. Nice try, but I think we’ll continue to “vent our frustration” at the real problem. I’m sure Bishop Malone didn’t expect the kind of fallout he’s dealing with. The bishop found out very quickly that St. Francis is a small school with the heart of a lion, and the backing of a former judge, city councils, mayors and even state senators. If the bishop succeeds, closing St. Francis of Assisi School will forever be seen as a travesty in judgment. A black eye on the Buffalo Diocese for a mistake the bishop will probably never own up to. All of these displaced families, and not just at St. Francis, are probably looking at public schools as their only realistic option. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” We promised our children 4 years ago this wouldn’t happen again. Children tend to remember broken promises. ... usually for the rest of their lives.

Claudia Brown

North Tonawanda resident and St. Francis parent