Parish administrator sends letter in response to St. Ignatius parents’ concerns

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The priest in charge of St. Ignatius Catholic Church and School has sent a letter to to the school’s parents in an attempt to address some of the concerns elicited following the resignations of the Head of School and several faculty members.

(Read the letter here.)

The letter from Parish Administrator Naveen D’Souza describes a transition plan to be put into place until a replacement for Head of School Emily Alexander is hired, provides information about resignations of 7 teachers and 1 non-teaching staff member since July, and gives an update on the hiring process to replace the departing faculty.

“[D]ue to the unfortunate way the news of Mrs. Alexander’s resignation was released and received in our community, I understand and empathise with the high level of concern this situation has raised amongst our faculty, parents and students. I’m saddened to see our vibrant school community burdened with worry and uncertainty,” D’Souza said in the letter.

“I want to take this opportunity to apologise for the length of time it has taken to sort through, consider and address all of your questions and comments while simultaneously working with our School leadership team from a strategic level to move us forward.”

D’Souza said that by 31 Oct., they would distribute a copy of the transition plan to parents “to explain the structure of our school administration and management until a new School Principal is in place”. He said the school is currently recruiting for a new Head of School.

D’Souza said there was no “mass exodus” of staff from St. Ignatius. He listed the timing of resignations of eight staff members from July to October and said each had given “various motives” for leaving the school, including “personal reasons”.

He said substitute teachers had been hired to fill the vacancies and gave details of the recruitment process for the positions.

The letter from D’Souza does not refer specifically to multiple other concerns brought up by the school board and parents over the past month, mainly involving issues of governance, transparency and communications.

On 14 Sept. more than 200 parents attended a Home School Association meeting where school board members and faculty first raised public concerns over Mrs. Alexander’s resignation, and also significant revisions D’Souza made to the School Advisory Board (now called the School Advisory Committee, and with a reduced scope of responsibilities).

Afterward, a high-ranking official with the Archdiocese of Detroit (which governs St. Ignatius) sent a letter to the Cayman Islands Catholic community, citing parents’ concerns and referring to the school transition plan that D’Souza’s new letter also mentions.

Since then, the St. Ignatius HSA formed a ‘Governance and Transparency Sub-Committee‘ and launched a petition calling for increased transparency and independent representation on the school board. (As of 16 Oct., the petition had 462 signatures.)

During the first week of October, the Sub-Committee sent a letter citing a lack of response from church leaders, and indicating that the Sub-Committee had lodged its concerns with the Ministry of Education and General Registry (NPO).

The 6 Oct. letter contains a litany of concerns, including staff resignations, changes to school staff’s health insurance plan, failure to keep up-to-date with filings required of Non-Profit Organisations, and rumours of investigations into St. Ignatius by entities including the Ombudsman, Ministry of Education, Department of Labour & Pensions, and Health Commission.

On 9 Oct., the Sub-Committee announced that D’Souza had responded to their concerns and “We are working though his responses and will update you accordingly.”

The Sub-Committee’s most recent update, dated 14 Oct., states that D’Souza and Parish Pastoral Council Chairman Wil Penau had approached the HSA on 12 Oct. and indicated the Archdiocese was reviewing the Sub-Committee’s proposals.

D’Souza said in the new letter, “In the coming days, I will also address the other concerns surrounding the School to mitigate any further misrepresentation of facts.”

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