St. Saviour

Mediator’s Solution Rejected By Catholic School Pastor

In 1 on September 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Park Slope’s St. Saviour Torn Apart by Controversy 8/31/2009

By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

PARK SLOPE — A Park Slope pastor was offered a compromise solution to a situation that has torn a Catholic elementary school apart for months – but he has rejected the offer, the Brooklyn Eagle has learned.

Pastor Daniel S. Murphy turned down a mediator’s recommendation that popular St. Saviour Elementary School principal James Flanagan return to St. Saviour for one more year, this time as a co-principal. Flanagan led St. Saviour for 26 years.

Father Murphy confirmed on Friday via email that he has indeed declined to have Flanagan return as a co-principal, but did not elaborate on his reasons.

Father Murphy fired Flanagan in May and has since appointed a new principal, pastoral parish council member Maura Lorenzen. (See earlier Brooklyn Eagle stories: Parents Still Protest as Slope Catholic School Chooses New Principal and Catholic Parents Protest Firing of Beloved Principal

Since then, devastated parents have picketed repeatedly in front of the church, have sent appeals to Bishop DiMarzio and other church officials, and collected 681 signatures on a petition. Families and friends have also formed the St. Saviour Preservation Society, with its own web site (https://stsaviours.wordpress.com/).

Denying Rumors

Fr. Murphy told the Brooklyn Eagle earlier this summer that he has “the highest regard for Ms. Lorenzen,” and is confident “she’ll do an excellent job leading the school as the new principal. She’s highly regarded in the community, she’s lived in Park Slope her whole life and is well known and well respected.”

Parents say they don’t want to trash Ms. Lorenzen, who as been praised by many for her work as co-director at Congregation Beth Elohim’s Early Childhood Center (ECC).

But parent Cindy Brolsma, who has three children attending St. Saviour, is one of many parents who feel Flanagan is being forced out because he – unlike Ms. Lorenzen – “disagreed with Fr. Murphy about raising tuition.” Brolsma says parents also worry that plans are afoot to rent the school building to the city for conversion to a non-Catholic charter school.

The St. Saviour Preservation Society is requesting that Fr. Murphy turn over minutes of meetings of the parish council reflecting Maura Lorenzen’s statements on that topic.

In June, Fr. Murphy, in a letter to parents, denied that he intended to close the school and sell the building, calling the idea “a lie.”

Diocese Has No Say

The Diocese of Brooklyn claims it has no say in the Flanagan matter. Principal Flanagan recently won his appeal to the Superintendent’s office – but was informed that the Diocese still couldn’t force the pastor to re-hire him.

Father Kieran Harrington, spokesperson for the Brooklyn Diocese, told the Eagle in June that each parish is an autonomous corporation. “We try to facilitate the process, but every decision is made at the local level. The person who makes the decisions is Father Murphy . . . He hires, he fires. He signs all the contracts for the parish. We don’t even set salaries.”

Confusion Reigns

Parents say that they are entering the new school year with fear and confusion. The issue has been largely ignored in school correspondence, said parent Cathy Inniss. “I received the standard letter for the opening of the school year this week, and from what I can tell, all that changed in the content was the name of the sender.”

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