By Lorenzo Recupero & Joe Prezioso
The battle cry of the Pope John Tigers roared loudly across the school’s auditorium Monday evening as hundreds of current students, administrators, alumni and local politicians offered their feelings, ideas, and support for how to keep the Catholic School open amidst a $1.5 million shortfall that threatens to shutter the school’s doors for good if the money isn’t handed over to the Archdiocese by May 23.
That leaves the school, which opened its doors 54 years ago, just 23 more days to come up with a colossal amount of money or the roughly 300 students attending now will be searching for an education elsewhere.
A Broward County Florida insurance firm-turned- ‘Ponzi scheme’ headed by the same man that bilked Pope John XXIII of about $1.5 million, cost Florida, policyholders $100 million, according to Florida investigators.
Philip Morgaman owes Pope John XXIII about $1.5 million after declaring a bankruptcy and failing to make his monthly payments according to his contract with the school.
His company provided the school with foreign students and with their boarding, which was very successful for a number of years. In the end, it appears Morgaman took the money from the students’ parents and failed to hand over to the school its fair share for educating them and for putting them up in the school dormitory. Only through the heroic actions of Carl DiMaiti has the school remained open this long.
Because of Morgaman’s failure to pay, the school’s financial situation deteriorated as the Board of Directors tried to figure out a way to keep the place afloat.
Morgaman’s financial situation is complicated and hidden. It is so convoluted that the school’s possibility of ever seeing another dollar from him is slim to none which some people claim is about the same chance the school has of seeing anything from the Archdiocese.
The school has at last one major entrepreneurial Catholic businessman who can fix its finances if the school is allowed to remain open. He has been in touch with the Archdiocese and school officials for months. He remains willing to give it a go.
The Archdiocese has apparently opened that door – and as long as that door remains open, a reprieve from the death sentence might be achieved.
Principle of Pope John for the last 8 years, Tom Mahoney, was optimistic when asked if he’d be shopping for a job at the end of the school year.
“I don’t think I’m going to be [shopping for a job], I’ll be right back here next year,” said Mahoney. He pushed the idea of alumni fundraising, something the school hasn’t endorsed in his time as principle, with the hopes it will keep the school afloat. “We are trying to energize the Alumni Association and maybe this is the opportunity that’s presenting itself to us. Maybe firm up our alumni and get them back on our campus or at least interested in the school and it’s well-being. If all of the alumni do a little bit, 100 bucks, 200 bucks, we stay open,” said Mahoney.
Headmaster Carl DiMaiti claimed the school could lose teachers for next semester with budget cuts almost certainly coming, but had a less than enthusiastic response when prompted with the idea of alumni holding the school up as changes linger.
“I think that [alumni funding] remains to be seen, but it’s certainly good to have alum participating,” said DiMiati.
Parents wanted to know how the school would be open next year, and if they open are assured that it would be a semblance of what it is today. DiMiati claimed the school would be the same at its core with its extra curricular offerings, including drama, mock trial, sports, etc., but might have a smaller freshman class and other changes.
City Councilor Mike McLaughlin spoke to all in attendance and assured the crowd he would be standing in unison with the school as they venture forward, offering to make phone calls to help further donations, even saying he will ask Encore Casino, an Everett neighbor, if they, too, will join the fight to keep the school open.
Julie Rao, a graduate of the class of 1978, was in attendance for the #NotDeadYet rally as it’s been named, and shared her views on the school’s budget problem.
“I graduated from here, and it’s a big part of my heart,” said Rao, a Boston College grad. “I still feel like this is a bigger part of me. I’m very, very saddened for the families that have kids here who have to face an uncertain future,” she said, while acknowledging the efforts the alumni have already offered the school. “We will do what we can,” she said.
Current student Donovan Archelus, a 17-year old junior who transferred from the now closed St. Clements School, was dejected and hoping for a miracle.
“This feels like a family [at Pope John], a place I can really call home,” said a confused Archelus. “The Pope John Culture made me see the brighter in myself. If it closes, I don’t know what I would do,” said Archelus, who travels 2 hours from Mattapan each day just to attend. “There’s no place like Pope John, teachers care for you,” he said.
As the school searches for options and ways out of the budget crisis, they are still accepting donations from the public via the school’s website (https://popejohnhs.ejoinme.org/MyPages/Donations/tabid/222060/Default.aspx) and Facebook page.