As South Philadelphia's two big Catholic high schools prepare to merge, there's no shortage of regret- and blame- to go around.
But it wouldn't.
"I think it's a mistake to consolidate at the Goretti site," says Fumo today. "The panel was kind of rigged, from what I heard. The archdiocese got the decision they wanted as opposed to the decision they would have gotten if they gave the people all the information."
Councilman at-large Jim Kenney thinks the archdiocese may have miscalculated.
"The archdiocese would have made a nice dollar using the Goretti site for housing opportunities," Kenney says. "If a development firm had knocked down the building and built brand new townhouses or condos, they could have gone for $300,000 or $400,000 each."
"Neumann is a much tougher site to develop," says Fumo. "You don't want a property of its size lying vacant. It has much more of a chance of eventually becoming an eyesore. Goretti, on the other hand, would be an instant success for development because of its location at 10th and Moore."
Teachers from both schools say they're ready to put the past 14 months behind them.
"In the end, we are all teachers," says Paul Coyne, a longtime Neumann teacher. "And that's what we'll do. We'll wind up in a classroom, and we'll teach."
"We're committed to having Catholic education in South Philly," says Charles Haub, another veteran Neumann teacher. "With or without the support of the central administration, we'll make this work."
William Feeley, chairman of Neumann's English department, is equally confident.
"This isn't something dying," he says. "This is just two things that financially couldn't survive on their own anymore and are growing together. There'll be growing pains. But eventually it'll be strong."
It's the morning of the senior yearbook social. There are a host of outdoor activities planned. But a gray sky opens up, and the party moves into the gymnasium. The seniors make due by holding tug-of-war contests instead.
Two teams of eight stand ready, rope in hand, in the middle of the gym. The rest of the senior class sits in the bleachers, cheering them on. The whistle blows. One team pulls early; the other crashes to the floor. The bleachers erupt.
Neumann principal Miles stands off to the side, watching and laughing. He won't be making the move to Goretti next year. The archdiocese didn't think it appropriate to have both a Neumann president and principal take charge at the new school, so Miles is awaiting his new assignment.
In his 17 years in the Catholic school system, he's worked at five different high schools. The "Neumann family thing"? He knows the "Neumann family thing" sounds like a cliche, but it's true, and he'll miss being part of it.
He says he's not worried about the kids. They'll have the easiest time with the consolidation. Going to school with girls will ease their homesickness.
The Neumann seniors line up to get their yearbooks, sodas and hoagies. They spread out across the gym floor and the bleachers.
Joan Kelly, a history teacher and organizer of the annual talent show, says the kids don't seem their "effervescent usual selves today."
Mike Zarella, a heavyset lineman on the football team with a closely shaved head, is indeed letting his emotions get the better of him. By alphabetical chance, Zarella will be the last student ever to graduate from St. John Neumann High School.
"On paper, I'm the last one to go," he says, somewhat flustered, taking a break from signing yearbooks. "I don't know whether to be sad or happy. I'm more honored than anything, I guess. All the tradition--it puts a feeling in my stomach."
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