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LOYALTY STILL STRONG FOR SCHOOL IN DANGER

David Baugh feels he has a good shot at playing big-time college basketball.

As a 6-foot-5-inch forward on the Turner-Carroll High School basketball team, he has had the opportunity to impress college scouts because the school is a basketball powerhouse and went to the state championship last season while compiling a 21-6 record.

But David said Turner-Carroll means more to him than basketball and if eliminating the sport would help keep the school open, he would favor it.

"I would stay here even if they dropped basketball," he said Friday.

But as it is, he and other teammates are talking about transferring to St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute or Canisius High School. Prospects that Turner-Carroll will reopen in the fall do not appear good, after the Diocese of Buffalo announced it was being forced to eliminate the $550,000 annual subsidy it provides the school.

Still, there was a lot of talk -- or perhaps wishful thinking -- of "miracles" and "guardian angels" Friday by those hoping to come up with a way to keep the school open.

More ideas will be discussed during a meeting of parents at noon today at the school.

With tuition of $3,900 a year, compared to about $6,000 at some other Catholic schools, Turner-Carroll presented a reasonably priced alternative for inner-city families who like its small class sizes and tougher discipline than in public schools.

James A. Bryant Jr., a self-described "concerned grandparent" and school activist, said the announcement caught him and many others by surprise.

"We deserve at least a year to try to turn things around," he said, adding the diocese should continue its support "because it's the right thing to do. It's not like they are pouring in money and not getting any results. A lot of our kids go to college."

But Kevin Keenan, spokesman for the diocese, said the decision was not unexpected.

"There have been ongoing discussions with the (Turner-Carroll) board of trustees about the financial position of the school," he said. "It was up to the board to communicate to the parents."

John Langer, president of the board of trustees, could not be reached to comment Friday.

Marcia O'Neil-White, interim principal, said school officials are hoping for more time.

"There's always hope," she said. "We feel good about what we do here and want to keep doing it."

David, the sophomore basketball player, was walking out of the school as O'Neil-White spoke, and they hugged briefly.

"I like her," David said later. "She's been put in a tough spot."

Brian Perez, a sophomore, said he remains hopeful. "Miracles do happen," he said.

Corey Anderson, also a sophomore, credited the school with helping him turn himself around. He said his grades were in the 70s last year in a public school, but now he has an 87 average. "The smaller class sizes really help," he said.

"We're all friends and family," said sophomore Donald Jemison. "People should help us. We're the future."

"I'm upset, hurt and a little mad," said Tajuanya Davis, who is completing her junior year and now fears she won't be able to graduate from Turner-Carroll.

The diocese's Keenan said Turner-Carroll was receiving more aid than any other of the 17 high schools in the diocese.

Turner-Carroll was formed in 1984 by the merger of Bishop Turner, an all-boys school, and Archbishop Carroll, which had all girls. In 1985, its enrollment stood at 545.

Since last year, enrollment has dropped from 139 to the current 99, 72 boys and 27 girls.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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