***Update, 1.30pm 19 Oct.***
Following recent statements from St. Ignatius Parish Administrator Naveen D’Souza, the Home School Association sub-committee formed in response to parents’ concerns has taken a step back, in favour of the school board and HSA.
“We have met with members of the [School Advisory Committee] and the Chair of the HSA and feel comfortable that they are now well versed in our concerns and are best placed to represent parents as the changes to the constitution move forward with Father Naveen, the Parish Pastoral Council and the Archdiocese of Detroit. We have asked the Chair of the HSA to represent parents through that process,” according to an update posted Monday on the sub-committee’s website.
The priest in charge of St. Ignatius Catholic Parish and School has written a letter responding to several concerns raised publicly by the school’s parents, including changes to the school board, the school’s finances, and staff resignations.
The letter from Parish Administrator Naveen D’Souza appears in the St. Ignatius Parish Bulletin for 17-18 Oct. and follows a separate letter from D’Souza to the school’s parents sent Friday.
In the letter to the church congregation, D’Souza states that after his appointment as Parish Administrator on 1 July, he decided to align the school’s policies with directives issued by the Archdiocese of Detroit.
“Regrettably, my decision to adopt the [Archdiocese’s] Constitution and By-Laws for a School Advisory Committee, to replace the existing St. Ignatius School Advisory Board Operating Procedures, was met with strong resistance, to the extent that there have been allegations of mismanagement, lack of transparency, and questionable governance of the school, as well as personal attacks on my integrity, amongst others,” D’Souza said.
“Various information has been released to the media houses, as well as social media groups, calling on the Ministry of Education and other government agencies to investigate the operations of the school.”
On 14 Sept. more than 200 parents attended a Home School Association meeting where school board members and faculty first raised public concerns over the Head of School’s resignation, and the significant revisions made to the school board.
The HSA formed a ‘Governance and Transparency Sub-Committee’ which, citing a lack of response from church leaders, announced at the beginning of October that it had lodged its concerns with the Ministry of Education and General Registry (NPO).
D’Souza apologised “for any lack of communication on my part that may have helped fuel confusion and distress in our community. This was never my intention.”
In regard to questions about the school’s finances, D’Souza said the school is not an independent entity, but is one of the church’s ministries; however, “activity in each ministry is recorded in separate accounts, to allow for the objective review of operational goals. In that regard, the parish is audited by the Archdiocese periodically, to ensure compliance with applicable policies”.
He continued, “From my recollection, no school funds have been transferred to or utilized for church purposes during my tenure at St. Ignatius. Further, to the best of my knowledge there has never been a report of misappropriation or embezzlement of funds at the school.”
He said that funds raised for the school’s $5 million school Sports Hall project are maintained in a separate account. “Only two small reimbursements have been requested (and granted) since the donors were advised in July that the project was on a temporary hold due to the pandemic. It is expected that the project will resume in early 2021,” D’Souza said.
On the issue of the resignation of Head of School Emily Alexander, D’Souza said “in all personnel matters, the privacy of the individual must be respected. Responding publicly to the opinions and conclusions of others is both unfair and unhelpful. For this reason, I am not at liberty to disclose details regarding my interactions with the head of school, but can assure you that the decision to leave was solely her own.”
D’Souza said that other resignations by faculty “have not been unexpected”, citing “uncertain and challenging times with persons wishing to return home overseas to be with their families and loved ones, and for other personal reasons”.
He said the upcoming vacancies should “be filled very soon” and that “the education of the students will not be affected by the current changes”.
For previous reporting by the Current on this topic, read these stories:
- Parish administrator sends letter in response to St. Ignatius parents’ concerns
- St. Ignatius parents group takes school concerns to government
- St. Ignatius parents launch transparency group, petition
- St. Ignatius parents concerned over Head of School’s resignation, school board changes
*Disclosure: Cayman Current editor Patrick Brendel’s spouse is a member of the St. Ignatius Parish Pastoral Council. Three of their children attend St. Ignatius Catholic School.*