St. Saviour

Father Murphy’s First Address To Parents

In 1 on June 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm


June 8, 2009

Dear Parents,

These past several weeks have been ones of tension and anxiety for some of you. Perhaps some clarification on certain issues would be helpful.

On April 3, 2009 I informed Mr. Flanagan that I was not renewing his contract for the 2009-2010 academic year as principal of Saint Saviour Elementary School. Mr. Flanagan knows that my decision is final. As his employer my decision not to renew Mr. Flanagan’s contract came after a lengthy period of prayer and consultation. In the month prior to April 3rd, I discussed my reasons for this non-renewal with several experts in Catholic education. Each of them supported my reasons and decision.

Although I have received much approval from parents for my decision, there is a group of parents that have been circulating information that contains completely inaccurate and untrue accusations, which include the following:

• That I intend to close the school and sell the building. This is a lie; there is absolutely no truth at all in that statement.
• That I don’t like children. That is just not true. Throughout my 39 years of priesthood I have always enjoyed a special bond with children of all ages.
• That I refused to go to Methodist hospital to baptize babies that are dying. That is not only a lie but also a calumny, a serious sin against the 8th Commandment.
• That I “shame the priesthood.” In a written statement to Bishop DiMarzio such a claim was made, however no evidence was given for that cruel accusation.
• That I said, “if you don’t like it take your children and go.” What was said was give the new principal a year before making any rash decisions.

A disrespectful and distracting tactic occurred on Pentecost Sunday, May 31st when students from our elementary school were directed by parents to hold picket signs in my direction as I greeted parishioners exiting Mass. I do not believe I need to elaborate on the unfathomable involvement of children in this situation and on this occasion. Furthermore, I have received telephone calls and written correspondences containing profanity and vulgarities. One phone call (from a male parent) used such language to our evening receptionist, a young (female) college student.

It is understandable that this decision may have raised concerns from some parents. My intention for writing to you is to clarity the fallacies expressed within such a discourteous crusade by some of these parents.

Father Murphy, Pastor

  1. Wow. I’m a father to a two year old boy, and considering his educational future. Until today, St. Savior’s was at the top of the list.

    After reading about the shameful behavior of its Pastor, I’m afraid it’s at the bottom. I wouldn’t want to invest my (and my son’s) emotions and education in a place so completely subject to the whims of a tyrant like Father Murphy.

    My prayers and sympathy go out to you parents, and if it helps in your battle at all, please remind the short-sighted “visionaries” they’re doing nothing to “preserve” St. Saviour with their kind of behavior. This story will reverberate for years in the minds of Brooklyn’s parents looking for a quality place to send their children.

    Good luck and God bless.

  2. Father Murphy,
    The Puydak family has a history dating back to the 1910’s with St. Saviour with my Great Grandmother attending the parish when it was first created and when my grandmother, Nora McCormick and her husband Frank Puydak, stayed and settled in Park Slope. My three aunts and my father attended St. Saviour when it was the little red schoolhouse. My three siblings and I all attended St. Saviour, with two of us, my younger sister and me, attending during Mr. Flanagan’s tenure. Father Murphy, you should have confidence in a person who was successful during a long period time before you came to our parish. As a student of St. Saviour, it is obvious that his approach to running a catholic school works. I saw the effect on my younger sister and myself when we graduated. You state he is not the person to achieve the new vision for the school. What better man is the one who has endured during the many changing times over the last 25 years, particularly, one who has kept up the highly consistent standard as he has. Please remember it is people like us, yes we, who maintain the parish and community, not individuals like you who we have seen come and go through time. This is why you should work directly with the parents and community, not your own personal consultants. For it is us who will endure supporting the parish, as we have done so for so many years. For a priest to do harm to his own parish is not the way of God. I have seen it before with a predecessor of yours and here we find it happening again. The “my way or the highway” philosophy is not what we were taught in catholic school. Why do we now find it coming from an ordained catholic man??

    If you have a real reason to replace Mr. Flanagan then be forthright with us. If you just want to bring in your own administration, then say so. Do not hide behind your consultants do not ignore the questioning from your parish people, parents, and those interested in the livelihood, history, and sustainability of their roots to the community.

    Mr. Flanagan is a good man, hard working man and obviously has produced results. We have 25 years to base that judgment on. You have been with us less than five years. I think you owe the parents and parish an outreached hand and should be talking to us, not dictating to us.

    Finally, kids have a say too. Do not be shocked by the “unfathomable involvement” of the children. Remember, Jesus called the children to him, obviously He knew they had something to say. Father, never deny a child their voice, for later you will find yourself with adults with nothing to say. The St. Saviour’s Youth Council taught me that lesson.

    Edward A. Puydak
    Class of 1986
    One of eight Puydak’s to attend St. Saviour.

  3. Dear Father Murphy,

    I wanted to follow up with you and ask you again to reverse your decision. The letter we received today from our beloved Principal clearly shows that your motive is not only personal but a move to dramatically increase tuition. Since you’re unwilling to talk about it, we have to believe that is your vision. What is your vision of change? I think you owe it to the hundreds of Parents that are struggling in this economy to send their children to St Saviour’s a detailed explanation that includes your vision. I also think you owe it to the families that attend MASS and donate their hard earned money to the Church the same detailed explanation that includes your vision. This is not a private matter. I find it appalling that you think it is. How can it be? The parents are very organized and even though the school year is ending, our fight will not. Perhaps the vision of change is one of the pastor and not the Principal. My letter to the Bishop will reflect that.


  4. The contrasts in letters between our principal and pastor are pretty stark. One is full of love, work, struggle and productivity. The other is full of hearsay and bitterness. Startling.

  5. As an SSES parent I am ASTONISHED the only thing that prompted Father Murphy to communicate with us is self pity. Children are crying in the hallways of our school, the faculty is scared silent for fear of losing their jobs and all Father Murphy can bring himself to write about is how all of this is adversely affecting HIM. Father Murphy wishes he was being opposed by the few members of a lunatic fringe. If that were so he would not have sunk to spreading misinformation and trying to down play how unified,informed and respectable those of us opposed to his actions are. Father Murphy is stunned by this backlash and has been caught (in public) being positively clueless about his “flock” . He may have broken his silence but he has yet to say anything of significance. I guess when there is no precedent for firing a successful principal at the helm of a school that is the pride of its district without explanation this letter is the most we can expect.



  6. Dear Father Murphy,

    This e-mail is written in response to your letter dated June 8, 2009, which was addressed to all parents of Saint Saviour’s Elementary School (“SSES”). I am one of the parents. It appears that you have finally decided to formally advise the parents of your decision not to renew Mr. Flanagan’s contract as principal, despite his 25 years of dedicated service to SSES. That your notification comes less than two weeks before the end of the school year, over two months after you apparently notified Mr. Flanagan, and almost a month after you notified the faculty, seems a bit belated. At least, however, we have finally received the much deserved formal notice from you.

    I agree that the past several weeks have been “ones of te nsion and anxiety.” Your characterization that it is only “some” of us who have felt this way, however, unfortunately either reveals: (a) just how out of touch you presently are with the concerns of most of the parents of SSES; or (b) perhaps your mistaken belief that there are really just a few of the parents who are upset over your unfortunate decision to not renew Mr. Flanagan’s contract. Even you cannot refute that under Mr. Flanagan’s tenure, which exceeds your tenure as Pastor at Saint Saviour’s by over two decades, SSES has thrived and flourished. Its reputation academically and spiritually is beyond reproach. Having attended meetings, which were also attend by a large number of concerned parents, and having observed the numerous petitions which have been signed on behalf of Mr. Flanagan, I can personally attest to the fact that it is much more than “some” parents of SSES who have had all of the tension and anxiety thrust upon us by your unfortunate decision.

    Similarly, I believe your claim that you have received “much approval” from parents for your decision is misguided, at best. While I am certain that there are s ome parents who agree with your decision, I am fairly confident that they are in the extreme minority.

    In your June 8, 2009 letter, I note that, for the first time, you advise that you discussed your reasons for Mr. Flanagan’s non-renewal with “several experts” in Catholic education. Who were these experts? Are they in any way affiliated with or have any connection with our SSES? Did you advise them of that SSES had a student body of over 400 students? Were they made aware of how amazingly ethnically diverse SSES is? Did you advise them of Saint Saviour’s well deserved reputation for academic excellence? Did they visit the school to either observe Mr. Flanagan and/or the children at our school? Did they speak with any of the students of SSES to evaluate their academic abilities and spiritual base? Did you provide them with any documentation, such as State wide test scores, the number of scholarships SSES graduates have been awarded over the last 25 years? If not, then please advise me of what information you discussed that resulted in their alleged support of your reasons and decisions.
    I agree that there have been some unfortunate statements made by some of the concerned parents of Saint Saviour’s as a result of this unfortunate situation. I must tell you that it has gone both ways. One of your employees was very disrespectful to both my wife and my 10 year old daughter on Sunday. Whether you or your employees think it is inappropriate for my daughter to march in support of her principal is your right and your opinion. To be disrespectful and abusive to my wife and daughter was wrong. Please know, however, that my daughter is marching on her own accord. I had a very long discussion with her when she advised me that she wanted to march in support of her Principal.

    Let us not forget that your decision has had and will have a profound effect on so many of our children. While you may have some difficulty understanding this, they are not marching against you. They are marching in support of Mr. Flanagan. How such actions can be deemed “unfathomable” is beyond comprehension. Please know, however, I came to a decision to allow my daughter to march after a lengthy period of prayer and thought. While this may just sound like a bragging parent, I can tell you that my daughter is an incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and spiritually grounded 10 year old. She is but one of the many incredible students who attend SSES. I also had my own concerns about her involvements, because, as confirmed by your June 8, 2009 letter, those who do not support our struggle, would quickly seek to portray us as exploiting our children. To quote your June 8, 2009 letter, please know that any such claims are: lies; there is absolutely no truth at all to such statements. I hope this satisfies your unfounded concerns.

    To address some of the items you claim have are being circulated by a group of parents , I note the following:
    · I have never once advised anyone that you intended to close the school and sell the building. I am, however, concerned of about a substantial increase in tuition, currently at $3,800, to a cost per student basis, which according to the Diocese in 2008 was $5,100 and the adverse effect that such a substantial increase will have on a number of children who attend our school. Can you assure the parents of SSES that the tuition for will never be raised to a cost per student basis while you remain our Pastor? I assume that, as Pastor, you have the final say in such a decision;

    · I am uncertain as to how you personally feel about children, but trust that you have always enjoyed a special bond with children of all ages, as indicated in your letter. I note, however, that: (a) you have acknowledged your difficulty interacting with children in one of your initial Family Mass homilies; (b) you have not visited SSES in over two years; and (c) advised parents that the reason that you do not go over to the school is because it “drains” you. I have never once questioned any bond you may have with children. Instead, I question how, given your complete lack of interaction with SSES, you could make an informed decision as to what is best for SSES and our children;

    · In the three letters I wrote to Bishop DiMarzio, I never once used the term “shame the priesthood”. I assume you must have been carbon copied on the letter that contained that unnecessary accusation, as I know, to date, Bishop DiMarzio has not responded or addressed any of the comments contained in my letters with me; and

    · Your statement on Channel 12 news was “There will be a new principal next year. The parents should try him out. And if they don’t like him they can take their children and go.” It is recorded and can be made available if necessary. You apparently don’t take exception to your other statement that we, as parents, have no say in what happens at SSES. As you might expect, your take it or leave it comment was particularly disconcerting to many of us who are who live in Saint Saviour’s Parish, as well as the many others who travel to Saint Saviour’s to provide their children the best education they can afford. It was particularly upsetting to my wife, a lifelong member of Saint Saviour’s, who is so blessed to have our two children attending her school. Father Murphy, you must understand how upsetting this comment has been. You have been our Pastor the last five years and now tell lifelong parishioners that if they don’t like it they can leave. Is this the message that the Diocese of Brooklyn is sending to its catholic faithful?

    In closing, I am also concerned about the differing explanations for your decision for not renewing Mr. Flanagan’s contract. Initially, in the days after we learned of your decision, you advised several of the parents that your decision was a private matter between you and Mr. Flanagan. On June 3, 2009, you were quoted in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as stating that you were carrying our Bishop DiMarzio’s vision for the future of our schools when you decided not to renew Mr. Flanagan’s contract. Now, you advise that your decision was made after a lengthy period of prayer and consultation with purported unidentified experts in Catholic education. I would ask that, as you have now written to us to 0clarify the fallacies”, you also write to the parents of SSES to: (a) clarify which of the three differing reasons you have identified serve as the basis for refusing to renew Mr. Flanagan’s contract after his 25 years of dedication and unquestioned success as Principal of SSES; and (b) respond to my inquiries concerning the experts in Catholic Education with whom you consulted.

    I look forward to your response.


    James R

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