James Como drives a 1993 Plymouth Voyager.
If that seems extreme – and judging by the odometer it is – it’s by design. When friends and co-workers talk up weekend boat trips or extravagant vacations, the Mount Sinai resident thinks about his own significant and very personal investment.
Como and his wife, Ann, have skimped on luxury items to send four children to private schools.
“It’s been a financial sacrifice the entire time,” said Como, a math teacher at West Islip High School. “But I have a different perspective. It’s worth every penny. I have a lot of friends and they put their money in a lot of places – their expensive boats and cars and this and that – but I’m investing in my kids. I drive a beat-up old van, but I don’t care. They’re getting a solid foundation and a good moral compass.”
The two oldest already graduated from . Marissa, 16, will be a junior at the South Huntington Catholic school in the fall. The youngest, an eighth grader at a Port Jefferson private school, will likely join her soon enough.
With soaring property taxes and highly-regarded public schools nearby, Long Islanders have little reason to invest in a private school education. And in a down economy, you’d expect compromise to win the day.
Yet as schools prepare for the fall semester, . The Catholic high school, the largest on Long Island with an enrollment of 2,600 students, has boomed straight through the sputtering economy.
Families are buckling down and finding ways to meet the $8,500 tuition.
“Long Island has incredibly good public schools, some of the best in the country,” said Bro. Gary Cregan, the longtime principal at St. Anthony’s. “Why would Danny from Jericho leave one of the best districts in the country and come to a private Catholic school? Why do families pay an incredible amount in taxes and then choose to not go to [the local school]? Catholic schools on Long Island are still flourishing despite heavy competition."
Tuition was a real hurdle for Ron Hudson. But he allowed his son, Jamel, to transfer from Bay Shore High School to St. Anthony’s midway through his sophomore year in hopes it would unleash his potential.
“It’s hard,” the elder Hudson said of the investment. “But the reward will far exceed the amount of money that I have to put out.”
Consider it a wise move. As Jamel Hudson prepares for his senior year, he’s bloomed into a gifted performer who dances and plays the piano. He’s also captain of the wrestling team and a with Ivy League schools clamoring for his services.
Moving on to an elite college is one of the payoffs, as the Como family and countless others can attest.
Once Matthew Como, 22, graduated from Loyola (Md.) in May, he applied for a job close to home. St. Anthony’s turned out to be a bright spot on his resume, according to his dad, one that helped him land the position.
“It’s very competitive over there, but they spur each other on to want to do better,” James Como said. “They really flourish.”