As if the surprise announcement late last month of the shutdown of Wellesley’s St. Paul School wasn’t upsetting enough to parents, students, alumni and other supporters, a group of parents say they are further distressed by the manner in which the church portrayed the cause of the closing. “For many, their faith is shaken,” reads an Aug. 6 letter to parishioners that was sent on behalf of a group of 63 parents of St. Paul School students.
The parents — who are also congregating with other supporters on a Facebook page called Friends of St. Paul School — cite a letter from St. Paul-St. John collaborative Pastor Kevin Sepe in the July 26 St. Paul church bulletin that they say “implied that a lack of commitment on the part of school families was the cause of the school’s failure. This implication could not be further from the truth, and the parents of St. Paul School once again find themselves deeply disturbed by decisions and communications with regard to our school.”
This sentiment echoed those expressed by parents back in July when we broke this story, when one parent told us his family was forced to scramble to find a new school for their children due to the last-minute nature of the school closing. He termed the leadership/management at the school, as well as communication with parents, as “a total mess.” Those weighing in on our Facebook post also lashed out, with some blaming the Archdiocese for a lack of support.
In this new letter, the parents emphasize that the school didn’t close because of a lack of parent commitment and that “the closing of St. Paul School was completely preventable.” The parents say an annual fund campaign raised $85K and probably could have exceeded $100K if backers had been allowed to speak at masses. Parishioners and school alumni likely would have stepped up if they’re known of the situation.
The parents’ group says the principal was canned in April without explanation, despite positive momentum in terms of fundraising and enrollment. “The timing and manner of our principal’s forced exit demoralized our community…”
Furthermore, whereas the church stated that it had commitments for only 32 students as of July 20, the parents say that their poll of parents found that closer to 50 deposit increases had been paid and that other parents were willing to if things stabilized. “At no point were parents notified that if they didn’t turn in this deposit increase, the school would close,” the letter states.
The letter ends with a plea to hit up Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s office and voice objections to the school closing along with support for Annual Fund monies to be returned to donors. What’s more, the parents’ group is calling for a “thorough investigation into the role of the Boston Catholic Schools Office” in an effort to ensure other schools in the Archdiocese don’t suffer the same fate as St. Paul’s School.
In the meantime, parents of St. Paul School students are being encouraged to send their kids to the St. John school in Wellesley. Other nearby parochial schools are also making their pitches heard.