***Update: 10.30pm, Tuesday 22 Sept.***
A high-ranking Catholic church official from the Archdiocese of Detroit (which oversees the St. Ignatius parish in the Cayman Islands) has sent a letter about the resignation of the head of St. Ignatius Catholic School and “concerns expressed by some members of the St. Ignatius School community concerning Father [Naveen] D’Souza’s leadership”.
The letter, dated 21 Sept. and signed by Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda, states: “In the coming weeks, Father D’Souza will share with you more information about a transition plan for leadership of the school, carefully developed with the support of the Archdiocese of Detroit.”
The letter cites the strategic vision for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit. A copy of that document can be found here.
Here is the full text of the letter from Cepeda:
More than 200 parents crowded into the main hall of St. Ignatius Catholic School on Monday night, with the main topics of discussion being significant revisions to the school board, and the recently announced resignation of Head of School Emily Alexander.
During the meeting hosted by the St. Ignatius Home School Association, school board members (including chairman Anthony Partridge) expressed their support for Alexander and discussed their attempts to address circumstances they said led to her resignation, which was announced to the St. Ignatius community on 8 Sept. in a letter from Parish Administrator Naveen D’souza.
Alexander is set to continue in her post until 11 Nov., according to the letter. “Arrangements are currently being put in place to ensure a smooth transition and the continued exceptional leadership and management of the school. In this regard, an announcement will be made as soon as possible,” wrote D’souza, who is a priest.
In Monday night’s meeting, St. Ignatius parent Declan Magennis read a statement prepared by St. Ignatius staff members:
“As staff we are shocked and disappointed to hear of Mrs. Alexander’s resignation, as we are in full support of her vision for the school …
“We recognise that this has been a turbulent year for all, and Emily has led the school through this unprecedented time in an exemplary fashion.”
Alexander has been Head of School at St. Ignatius since July 2019. She was hired by then-Pastor Suresh Rajaian.
According to a timeline presented by Partridge in Monday’s meeting, D’souza became Parish Administrator in July 2020, succeeding outgoing Pastor Theodore D’ Cunha. As Parish Administrator, D’souza is the most senior authority in Cayman overseeing St. Ignatius church and school.
Partridge said that on 17 Aug., D’souza sent an email to the St. Ignatius School Advisory Board stating the board “had been dissolved effective immediately,” and was being replaced with a School Advisory Committee. One reason stated was to comply with standards set by the Archdiocese of Detroit, which is the authority overseeing the Cayman parish. The decision to change the board was approved by the archdiocese and the Cayman Parish Pastoral Council.*
Members of the Board were invited to join the new Committee, which has a smaller scope of responsibilities than the Board.
Board members initiated correspondence with D’souza, parish council chairman Wil Pineau and Detroit Bishop Arturo Cepeda, expressing their concerns. Communications continue between the school board and the parish council.
Pineau asked board members to put their concerns in writing and submit them to the full parish council and D’souza.
During Monday’s meeting, Pineau said, “I’ve received many of your letters. I have 15-20 letters in my inbox. I’ve read them all. I understand your concerns.”
He said that Detroit church authorities had issued guidance in early 2019 for school governance. “They basically gave us a template for a School Advisory Committee,” he said.
“It was talked about quite a bit between different groups, and basically we thought it was a good idea to introduce something just before the start of the school year,” Pineau said.
During Monday’s meeting, board member Monette Windsor (who is the board’s HR advisor) said Alexander had approached her on several occasions since February, with complaints that she was experiencing issues in the workplace that Windsor described as “concerning”.
Attempts were made to address the issues (which Windsor didn’t give details about, citing privacy and confidentiality reasons) by Partridge and then-Pastor D’Cunha, who also notified Bishop Cepeda.
“Unfortunately things continued to deteriorate. Eventually Emily found the situation untenable and submitted her resignation letter on August 11,” Windsor said.
Partridge, along with HSA president Martin Cooke, appealed to the Archdiocese of Detroit on Alexander’s behalf. On 3 Sept., the archdiocese issued a decision not to implement changes that had been requested by the board members.
In an email to the Current sent Tuesday, Alexander wrote:
“Over the last year I have had the honour of being the Head of School and Chief Operating Officer, leading our school through some of its most challenging times.
“We are privileged to have such hardworking, dedicated teachers, support and office staff who work tirelessly to ensure the best possible education for the children in our care.
“In light of recent events, I would like to say a huge thank you for the outpouring of support from parents, staff and members of the local community, as well as the consistent support of the School Advisory Board.
“St. Ignatius Catholic School has been and always will remain a special place for me where every single student will forever occupy a space in my heart.”
*Disclosure: Cayman Current editor Patrick Brendel’s spouse Rachael Brendel is a member of the St. Ignatius Parish Pastoral Council.*