St. Saviour

Parents Disagree with Pastor On School Principal’s Future

In 1 on June 19, 2009 at 6:00 am

An Article from The Tablet

By Marie Elena Giossi

A band of concerned parents from St. Saviour School, Park Slope, held a peaceful protest outside the diocesan office building at 310 Prospect Park West June 4.

For two hours, about 20 parents walked along the sidewalk carrying placards of support for their school principal of 25 years, James Flanagan, whose contract was not renewed by Father Daniel Murphy, pastor. They hoped to get the attention of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who was scheduled to be at the diocesan office building that afternoon, and Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Catholic School Support Services.

Picketer Becky McClintock, president of St. Saviour Elementary’s Home-School Association, said she was in tears when she received word of Flanagan’s termination after attending Mother’s Day Mass at Holy Name Church. A parishioner there told her. The next day, she said, “I went to Mr. Flanagan and asked if this was true. He confirmed it but said there wasn’t much he could say. He was working to reverse it.”

Flanagan was her principal at St. Saviour’s and he’s one of the reasons she sent her daughter Kate, now a third-grader, to the school. “I’ve known him almost 26 years. … (he’s) one of the most shining examples of faith the diocese could have.”

In Front of Roman Catholic Diocese, 6/4/09

She spread word among HSA members and a meeting was held to notify parents, who had not received any notification that there would be a change in the administration. Father Murphy was invited to address parents but he declined. By May 18, several parents began picketing outside the parish on a daily basis. In early June, they protested outside the diocesan Chancery Office and held a candlelight vigil outside the parish church. The group has also launched the St. Saviour Preservation Society

(www.stsaviours.wordpress.com).

“We’ve all written letters to the bishop and the response we’ve received is that the parish is the employer and the principal is the employee. The pastor makes the decisions. We understand that,” said Christine Schwartz, a parent who volunteers at the school.

McClinctock noted that the pastor has spoken of a “new vision” for the school, “but he won’t reveal what that is. That’s not OK. … Parents are a huge part of the success of any school. If we all stopped paying tuition, there wouldn’t be any kids in the school. We deserve better treatment.

“So this is where we are right now,” she said, standing with fellow parent-protestors. “We’re doing the best we can to make our side heard.”

While some are protesting against Flanagan’s termination, Father Murphy told The Tablet on June 5 that he has received support from others.

Father Murphy acknowledged that Flanagan has “done a wonderful job” over the last quarter century. Not renewing his contract was “a very difficult decision,” he said, but felt this was the right time for a change.

“The current model is fading out and a new model is coming in,” he said, making reference to the diocesan “Preserving the Vision” plan, under which each school will have a new governance model by 2013. “We need someone with a new vision for the future.”

In regard to parents’ assertions that they were not notified about Flanagan’s termination, Father Murphy confirmed their claims. He explained, “I have not sent a letter to parents. … I wanted him to leave with public acclamation. I wanted him to leave on a high note.” He had hoped Flanagan would choose to retire “after his long and meritorious service.”

A parishioner at St. Patrick’s parish, Bay Ridge, Flanagan has worked in the diocesan school system for about 40 years. He told The Tablet that he had planned to retire in June, 2010.

Although he said he could not comment on the specifics of his situation, Flanagan shared that “it’s been a real pleasure” serving as principal of St. Saviour Elementary School. He has appreciated the “chance to guide the children and empower the teachers to be real Christian citizens. … It’s been nice to see it (the school) grow and become financially very stable.”

Despite the disapproval of some, Father Murphy says he has no plans of changing his decision. Interviews have begun and the new principal, he said, will be “more on the same page, more in alignment with my thinking for the school.” He expects to have someone in place by late June or early July. Once the position has been filled, he intends to write letters to notify the parents.

Many protesting parents voiced their opinion that withholding this information from parents until after they registered their children and paid the fees for the fall is a disingenuous move.

Father Murphy understands the fear and concern parents may have but wants them to know “the school is going to be fine. I know the school is going to be just as excellent and stable in the future as it has been in the past.”

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  1. With all due respect, it appears Father Murphy continues to believe that the parents of Saint Saviour’s just don’t get it. We all know that the “interviews” for a new principal have been occuring in private meetings and dinners over the last several years and that there in only one “candidate” for the position. Who else has he interviewed ? Any of our incredible teachers who have actual backgrounds in Catholic education as well as the necessary pedigree? No.

    Instead, in perhaps one of the most incredible coincidences of all time, at the same time his good friend, Maura Lorenzan, loses her job at Temple Beth Elohim, Father Murphy decides that it “was the right time for a change.” We won’t have to be Carnac the Magnificent to figure out the name in the sealed envelope we are presumably going to receive from Father Murphy.

    While I doubt Bishop Caggiano would agree, apparently “Preserving the Vision” for Father Murphy includes casting aside dedicated and successful Catholic educators who have dedicated thier lives to Catholic education and have “done a wonderful job” in order to give a friend, with no Catholic education experience, a job.

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