This post is a follow-up to our first post, The Inside Story of the Closing of St. Paul School in Wellesley, Part 1. The Boston Globe wrote an article about the closing today and got a statement from Terry Donilon at the Archdiocese of Boston. The article repeats the generic statement from the school, “An attempt to secure solid commitments from parents for the upcoming school year was not sufficient.” We think the reporters covering this story should ask a few more questions of Terry Donilon and the Boston Archdiocese.
Announcements blaming the closing on the parents or implying the blame rests with the parents do not sit well with the parents. The parents were asked to make a commitment of $1,500 by July 15th, and about 65% of the parents did. Fr. Sepe never specified just how many deposits would have to be turned in to make it “fiscally possible” to open in the fall. Nor were parents informed of what the consequences would be if the parish didn’t receive a sufficient number of deposits. In addition, during the Annual fund raising drive (to celebrate 60 years of Catholic education with a $60K goal), the parents — who, according to the announcement did not commit to the school — raised about $67,000 to be used for the 2015 -2016 school year. The latest tally of Annual Fund donations is $85,000, the lion’s share of which came from the parent community. To BCI, parents, and others close to the school, this should be proof enough of commitment.
One might reasonably ask the question, “What will happen to those funds now that the school is closing?” When asked about these monies in the parent meeting (which occurred on Thursday), BCI has heard several varying recountings of what Fr. Sepe told the assembled parents, neither of which is good. One source reported that Fr. Sepe told the assembled parents this was a donation and would not be subject to return. Other sources recall Fr. Sepe equivocating and saying that if it was the “understanding and the stipulation” that Annual Fund monies were intended to benefit the school in the 2015-16 school year, then maybe the money would be returned. This answer did not set well with the donors or lawyers in the audience.
The full-time faculty were given contracts on July 9th. It is now known by those involved in the situation that they were at-will contracts, not the binding contracts that have been used in the past. Faculty were then called to the meeting on July 23rd and told there would not be an opening of the school due to lack of parent commitment to the school as noted above. During this timeframe, positions which had been posted as open positions at St. John School were filled. So good luck to the faculty! In addition the school secretary who had to work at the rectory one day a week for the 2014-15 school year had been offered her regular full-time position at St. Paul school for the 2015-16 year, but was also then terminated. When she asked if she could work at the rectory in an open two day position, she was told the position had been offered and accepted and thus was no longer open. A reasonable person might ask, if the future of the school was this uncertain in June and July, whey were these open positions filled by outsiders rather than kept open so those who would lose jobs could potentially fill them?
BCI is told that these are just some of the “shenanigans” that are surfacing in just the few days after the announcement. In addition, Father Sepe is also on retreat for two weeks, leaving the school closing in the hands of a teacher at the school who has never handled any responsibilities such as this that would require administrative, legal or leadership expertise.
Here you have it. The downfall of a once great Catholic school largely because of missteps and bungled management by the Archdiocese of Boston, yet blamed on others. Meanwhile,here is a short video interview with new schools superintendent, Kathy Mears, telling Catholic TV how hard she works to help Catholic schools.
The St. Pauls situation and others similar to it suggest that Mrs. Mears has her work cut out for her. BCI is now hearing of other Boston-area Catholic schools in decline because of mismanagement by the RCAB. Drop us an email in confidence to pass along details if this is happening in your area.