By ELISE McKEOWN SKOLNICK
Six of the seven-member Youngstown City Council met with representatives of the Cardinal Mooney High School board of directors behind closed doors.
The Mooney board asked for the meeting, said Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, after the Monday meeting that appeared to violate the Ohio open meetings law.
The so-called “Sunshine Law” requires meetings of at least a majority of city council members to be open to the public.
Cardinal Mooney “is one of our anchors in our city, and has been for years, and to lose it would be a tremendous tragedy,” Tarpley said.
Mooney has been on the city’s South Side since 1956. About 580 students attend the private Catholic school.
Last year, the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown hired Catholic School Management Inc. of Madison, Conn., to conduct a feasibility study regarding moving the school to a new location versus renovating and updating the existing structure.
It’s important for the school to remain in the city, council members told Mooney representatives, according to Tarpley.
Youngstown does not have other “excellent” schools, she said.
“So this is something that we need to help stabilize this community,” she said.
City council is considering ways to encourage the board to choose to remain in the city, Tarpley said. Nothing specific has been offered, however.
The school’s board of directors will make a recommendation about moving or not. Bishop George Murry will make the final decision. A decision is expected by the end of the school year.
City leadership’s opinion is an important part of the bishop’s decision, said the Rev. Gerald DeLucia, Mooney president, after the meeting.
“He needs all the information he can possibly gather to make that decision, and Youngstown leadership is a big part of that,” Father DeLucia said.
“It would be both disrespectful and, I think, inadequate to not include Youngstown leadership.”
City council members indicated an understanding of the school’s needs, he said, but encouraged it to remain in the city.
The school serves not only students in Youngstown, but increasingly in southern Mahoning County and Columbiana County, he said.
Also factoring into the potential move is needed repairs to the school’s current building. The cost to upgrade the existing structure is estimated at $18 million, while the cost of building a new school is estimated at between $24 million and $25 million.
As a nonprofit organization, Cardinal Mooney does not pay property taxes. However, the city would lose about $80,000 in city income-tax collected from employees of the school.