Shining Knights

July 24, 2003
Shining Knights
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Parents and community offset costs by volunteering

In a time of failing economy, the Syracuse Diocese was forced to close four Catholic schools last year due to low enrollment, rising costs and declining parish income. Schools and parishes throughout Central New York have cut back on spending, put renovations on hold and cut staff positions. When parents at Bishop Ludden saw the writing on the wall, they didn’t sit back and accept that the much needed renovations to the aging school wouldn’t take place. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Parents, administrators and the community got together and created “Knight Vision” –– a group of skilled, dedicated staff, alumni, parents and friends of Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School. According to their mission statement, their purpose is to “provide leadership, support and assistance to the school’s administration in developing and maintaining the best physical facilities possible in order to provide students with an environment that will allow them to achieve excellence academically, athletically and in school related activities.”

Through dedication and hard work, the Knight Vision committee has accomplished much in two short years of existence. Completed projects in 2002-03 include renovations to the science and technology wing and chapel, upgrades to the computer lab and main office, installation of new stadium lighting and football and soccer goal posts, installation of imported Italian tile in one of the wings and the construction and enhancement of the main entrance. The Knight Vision committee sits down and discusses what needs to be done. When the scope of the work has been determined, the work is put out for bid to area vendors. After it’s determined who has won the bid for the project, the committee meets with the vendor and asks them to donate additional services or materials. Through negotiation the committee was able to get the projects completed at a much lower cost than originally budgeted. For example, Essex Steel won the bid to build a steel structure on the site. The committee contacted Essex and asked them to consider donating some of the materials or labor. As a result, Essex gifted between $9,000 and $10,000 worth of insulation to the school. Additionally, the family of an alumni member donated the tile to be used in one of the projects in memory of their father. In return for their generosity, the school has named classrooms on behalf of the businesses. The committee is made up of people with technical expertise, including attorneys, carpenters, masons, electrical engineers, structural engineers, accountants, plumbers and other professionals. “A lot of talented people in the community step up and assist us with their expertise,” said Ken Carbone, co-chairman of the committee. Whether it be contributing legal advice in preparation of a town board meeting or having a connection with building supply companies, they know how to negotiate with all parties involved in the project. The Knight Vision committee doesn’t expect the vendors to make all the sacrifices, however. Since its inception in 2002, the committee has donated approximately $150,000 in services and 2,340 hours of time. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., one will find any number of volunteers at the school painting, demolishing, assembling, moving furniture or cleaning windows. The result is that the 2002-03 construction projects came in $5,500 under budget and the scope of the work completed was significantly increased.

In addition to donations and diocesan support, Knight Vision coordinates fund raising events, appeals to alumni for contributions and approaches area businesses for assistance. They have also negotiated an agreement with the Local Carpenters Union 747 to take advantage of their apprenticeship program. “Built on Pride” is a program offered to high school juniors and seniors and young adults who are seeking to learn a trade. This program, in which 18 different local unions participate, is offered only in Onondaga County and is funded through a grant provided by city, county and state agencies. The students that apply for the “Built on Pride” Program must meet certain requirements such as age, attendance in a vocational school and income level. The leaders saw this project as an ideal opportunity for their apprentices to work hand in hand with volunteers to assemble and install new lockers in the boys’ locker room. This relationship gave the apprentices the experience they needed and saved the school $15,000 in labor costs.

Knight Vision’s goal for the 2003-04 school year is the completion of Phase II of their overall project. Phase II is the construction of the Center for Artful Expression –– a 10,000-square-foot addition that will house the art, drama,and vocal and instrumental music programs. As a result of the second phase of construction, space will open up in the existing facilities for the execution of Phase III which is the renovation of two classrooms and the development of three additional classrooms. Bishop Ludden’s Historical Perspective states, “It is through the development of new space and the reconfiguration of old that Bishop Ludden will continue to address the educational needs of its students and families it serves.” Dennis Meehan, principal, agrees wholeheartedly with that statement. “In order to maintain the student body, we have to maintain the building structure and the program,” he said. “What Knight Vision has given us is a group of spirited, enthusiastic parents and community members with expertise in their field who have provided us with the ability to maintain our facility and become good stewards of our resources.”

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