Breaking news: Talks resume to bring Cambridge school to Savin Hill

September 27-- The Boston Archdiocese and the parish that owns the site of the former St. William’s School are back in negotiations over locating a private Roman Catholic high school to Savin Hill, the Reporter has learned.

The archdiocese had been hoping to buy the school from the parish and lease it to officials with the private North Cambridge Catholic High School, which is part of the Cristo Rey national network.

Talks reached an impasse on Tuesday. The archdiocese said they would pay $1.2 million for the St. William’s School site, despite it being assessed at $3.2 million. The archdiocese rejected a counter-offer from Father Jack Ahern, a pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa parish, which includes the old St. William’s parish. Ahern had proposed the parish receive $1.2 million but also co-own the site with the archdiocese.

Discussions resumed with a three-hour marathon bargaining session on Thursday night, according to Ahern. Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey is negotiating on behalf of the Archdiocese. Officials from the high school, including its president, Jeff Thielman, have also gotten involved in the talks.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is monitoring the talks, according to Ahern.

“The cardinal would like to see the school come to Dorchester,” Ahern said Saturday, while cautioning the proposal was “far from a done deal.” “It’s closer but not a done deal.”

Currently being used as a storage space, the property at one time housed a parochial school that was combined with St. Margaret’s into a single grammar school dubbed Blessed Mother Teresa.

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1st Report- Sept. 23, 2009

Cambridge school plan to move to Dot hits a late snag

Three weeks ago it appeared to be a done deal. But talks fell apart this week over bringing a Cambridge Catholic high school to the former St. William’s School in Savin Hill.

The Boston archdiocese and the local parish, which owns the school, broke off discussions on Tuesday night on a plan whereby the archdiocese would buy the school from the parish and lease it to officials with the private North Cambridge Catholic High School.

“It’s dead in the water,” said Rev. Jack Ahern, pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa parish, which includes the old St. William’s parish. “It would almost be irresponsible of me to say yes to a deal that leaves the parish receiving far less than what the value was.”

The archdiocese wanted to pay $1.2 million for the property, which is assessed at $3.2 million. Rev. Ahern said he offered a counter-proposal of co-owning the building with the archdiocese, with the parish receiving $1.2 million but also keeping a stake in 50 percent of the property.

“The final nail in the coffin was, the archdiocese said $1.2 million, take it or leave it,” Father Ahern said. “In good conscience, I couldn’t take $1.2 million when the building was worth more than $3 million.”

The property housed a parochial school that was combined with St. Margaret’s into a single grammar school dubbed Blessed Mother Teresa. The space is currently being used for storage.

An intermediary of Archdiocesan Chancellor James McDonough informed him Tuesday evening of the decision, Father Ahern said. A spokesman for the archdiocese did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment.

“Now we have to market the building once again and see what happens there,” Rev. Ahern said.

Jeff Thielman, North Cambridge Catholic High School president, is hopeful that negotiations can be restarted, which are solely between the archdiocese and the parish.

“We hope that the archdiocese and the parish can re-open negotiations because we think a lot of people in Dorchester would benefit from this school, both those who attend it as well as those who in the community would benefit economically,” he told the Reporter.

His school, part of a national network of 22 schools across the country called Cristo Rey, has been looking for a larger facility to accommodate the growing number of students. They have 265 students and are hoping to expand to 400.

“We want to be in the city of Boston,” Thielman said. We are looking at other spots; this is our top choice.”

Community members had greeted the prospect of the Cambridge school moving into the property warmly. “It was a great location for them and a good use of church property for us,” Father Ahern said.

The Cambridge school’s officials drew a bead on the Savin Hill property for a number of reasons: many of their students are from Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, and having the school in the neighborhood would reduce the commute time for them.

Cambridge school officials had been meeting with community members for weeks and were hoping to open the school under a different name next fall. Thomas P. O’Neill III, the son of the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill and a former lieutenant governor, chairs the high school’s board of trustees and had attended a meeting of the Tuttle/Hartland St. neighborhood watch.

“We were very encouraged by the response we received from the people in Dorchester,” Thielman said. “People seemed to be very supportive of our school moving over to Dorchester.”