It was Art Lamoureux, veteran teacher and backbone of the school, who once observed that St. Bernard's return to relevance would be complete only when the region could reinvent its "good, healthy hate" of the place so prevalent in the '80s.
It was a "hate" based on equal parts envy and resentment. The school's perch on the hill was symbolic of its beliefs from on high: our education is better than yours and so are our teams.
And now just as you hum a few bars of "Those Were The Days, My Friend," the question is posed based on realism, not fatalism:
Can the school survive conducting business as usual?
It's been a year now since the removal of Bill Buscetto as the school's athletic director, baseball coach and pied piper. Parents and alumni were vexed by the administration's disregard for their wishes to reinstate Buscetto, creating a public relations disaster, if nothing else. Parental threats to remove their children from school, however, turned into nothing more than bluster.
Amid the same complaints - institutional arrogance - several parents have said in recent weeks their children will no longer attend St. Bernard. Others say their younger children will go elsewhere as well. Moreover, sources in the school say the incoming freshmen class has fewer than 50 students.
Headmaster Tom Doherty would not divulge enrollment numbers during a telephone conversation last week to The Day.
"We have been deeply involved in the school with our children. Until these recent events, we had considered sending our youngest to St. Bernard. Until the current administration is replaced, we will not be sending her there," parent Scott Barlow wrote in an email to The Day.
Barlow's son Avery, a baseball player, graduated from St. Bernard in May.
"With this current administration in place, and their complete disregard for parents' suggestions, or the students' well-being, we will definitely not recommend it to anyone," Barlow wrote.
Parent Pat Gallagher, whose son Patrick just completed his junior year, echoed other parents' feelings during a telephone conversation.
"My son has been there for six years (also attending the middle school). I believe in Catholic education," Gallagher said. "But with the way things are being run, I have no choice but to send my son to Ledyard next year."
Gallagher, Barlow and several other parents still seethe over events from the past baseball season, stemming from a number of peripheral gripes to what they perceived was a major safety issue.
Work commitments prohibited (now former) baseball coach Paul Martinez from arriving at school until 5 p.m. some days. Gallagher said it left the players without adult supervision from 1:45 when school ended to late in the afternoon when practice started.
When asked the frequency, Gallagher said, "a whole hell of a lot."
Gallagher said he and other parents met the administration twice to express their concerns.
"All I could think of was the four Griswold kids," Gallagher said, alluding to a fatal, one-car crash in December, 2010, that killed four Griswold High school students at 4:38 p.m. on a school day.
"And nothing was ever done," Gallagher said.
Athletic director Brendan Case confirmed in a recent telephone conversation that the meetings happened. Case said the gap between school's end and practice would be fixed in the future, even if he had to monitor study halls himself.
Martinez resigned a few days later.
Several parents said the resignation hardly alleviates the problem: Nobody ever conveyed the message the parents were being heard. Nothing has changed, they said, from events of a year earlier, when dozens of them asked for Buscetto's reinstatement.
I'm interested to see whether the parents in question deliver on their threats. Especially when sources in the school say the new baseball coach will be Norwich native and former major leaguer Scott Chiasson, an excellent choice.
Nobody wants to see St. Bernard fail. Jobs and livelihoods. Not to mention the value of a Catholic school education. But the administration and Norwich Diocese need to start listening to their constituents. Remember: They ultimately pay the bills.
Past attempts at criticizing St. Bernard's administration and the Norwich Diocese resulted in a few "you're anti-Catholic" darts thrown this way. And while it is surely tempting to begin a hearty chorus of I-told-you-so, what would that solve?
Disgruntled parents can feel more dangerous than terrorists at times. But in this case, their concerns are valid. Just as they were last year when Buscetto's dismissal became more about posturing and saving face rather than serving the needs of children.
It would be presumptuous to suggest that St. Bernard's demise is imminent. But word is making its way around that the place is dysfunctional. That needs to change. Now.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.