Closing the country’s first all-girls Catholic school is a mistake | Opinion
Young women need Hallahan to give them the support, guidance, and encouragement to break glass ceilings and achieve their highest dreams.
The decision to close John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School is short-sighted and a misstep by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that will negatively impact young women for years to come. The board of directors implores Archbishop Nelson Pérez to reverse his decision.
As board members, we understand that these are challenging times for diocesan high schools — but closing John W. Hallahan when we are moving in the right direction would be a travesty for so many reasons. Hallahan’s enrollment is stabilized, and we believe our recruitment campaign will continue to increase enrollment. Young women from across the city have easy access to Hallahan’s Center City location just off the Parkway. As part of their education, our students take advantage of the cultural richness and easy walking access to theater, ballet, music, and world-class art and science museums. The long-standing tradition of fellowship among a diverse student body and high academic standards are among Hallahan’s many compelling assets. Most recently we have forged an academic partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia, in which our students will graduate with both an associate degree and a high school diploma.
Hallahan is the first all-girls Catholic diocesan school in the country, and will soon enter its 120th year. Our school has produced lawyers, physicians, scientists, educators, nurses, and businesswomen who have contributed to our community immensely. Hallahan is a model of diversity, bringing together young women from across the city who are Asian, African American, Caucasian, and Latina and represent religions of all faiths. The school was founded on providing an education for girls of immigrant families when no one else would consider unlocking the power of this asset. To this day, the families of students make great sacrifices to allow their daughters the opportunity to experience an education based on excellence and moral values. Now, more than ever, young women need Hallahan to give them the support, guidance, and encouragement to break glass ceilings and achieve their highest dreams.
We strongly believe that the sustainability study conducted by the archdiocese and Faith in the Future Foundation is inaccurate. Unfortunately, requests for a copy of the study have gone unanswered, and the foundation has not shared the data used for making this devastating decision. We believe that there is a future for Hallahan. Our deficit is a small percentage of the combined total of all schools with deficits. We have the financial resources in reserve to cover our small deficit and keep the school open for the next two years. We are certain that, given the time, we will grow our enrollment and raise the funding needed to support John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School’s continuation for generations to come.
The board’s fund-raising and enrollment outreach has been severely hampered by the timing of the closure announcement. The school depends on year-end donations to fund student financial aid and other programs. We are learning that our donors want to be assured that their contributions will be used to keep the school open. Anxious parents who want their daughters to remain at Hallahan, and eighth graders who have applied, been tested, and eagerly await their acceptance, hold hope that Archbishop Pérez will give us the time needed to keep our school open.
On behalf of John W. Hallahan’s board of directors and the entire Hallahan community, we strongly urge Archbishop Pérez to allow John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School to remain open by having faith in Hallahan’s future. Having spent nearly 120 years providing Catholic educational service to women, we respectfully request the time and opportunity to prove we can be successful.
Cass Breslin Egan is a 1972 graduate of Hallahan and cochair of the board of directors with Mary C. Tracy.