St. Mary's schools meetings set today Resolution sought in dispute over administrative plan

Sisters might depart

Pastor and bishop to confer after meetings of boards

May 27, 1998|By Melinda Rice | Melinda Rice,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The pastor of St. Mary's Church in Annapolis is to meet today with officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore in hopes of resolving the verbal skirmish the priest provoked when he announced a restructuring of the parish's two schools.

The changes at St. Mary's elementary and high schools have pitted many parents and teachers against the schools' management and have threatened the 131-year tenure of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who have said they might leave because of the proposed changes.

"This meeting is not a usual occurrence, but the problem has resisted efforts to resolve it at this point," said Raymond P.

Kempisty, spokesman for the archdiocese.

The meeting will follow private meetings in Annapolis this morning between the schools' newly created seven-member board of trustees and the high school board, the elementary school board and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

"Things are in the process of being evaluated right now," said Ron Baradel, a member of the board of trustees. "There are a lot of people who feel very strongly on both sides of this issue."

The Rev. Thomas Siconolfi, pastor at St. Mary's for 4 1/2 years, set off the controversy May 6 when he announced that the individual boards that ran each school would be abolished and replaced with a board of trustees. The trustees, who would answer to Siconolfi, would hire a director to oversee operations at both schools.

The plan leaves unclear the roles of Jim Moorhead, the popular high school president and nationally recognized lacrosse coach, and the high school principal, Sister Francita Hobbs of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Timothy Lynch would remain as principal of the elementary school, which has about 950 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Siconolfi would not comment yesterday on the status of Moorhead's contract for next year, but he confirmed that Lynch has a verbal agreement for the next two school years.

The high school has a steady enrollment of about 550 students. St. Mary's Church and schools are located on Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis.

About 350 parents, teachers and students packed a state Senate hearing room May 13 to protest the changes, calling them abrupt and unjustified, and saying they would harm the schools.

In subsequent public meetings, Siconolfi backed off slightly, saying he was sure an amicable resolution could be reached.

Siconolfi, whose parish is the third largest in the archdiocese, will meet at 3 p.m. today in Baltimore with Bishop William C. Newman, the eastern vicar for the archdiocese, and Ronald J. Valenti, the archdiocese's superintendent of schools.

"I'll bring them up to date and let them know what's happening," he said. "We hope to have some kind of closure on this within the next week or so."

School board members, teachers, parents, the nuns and parishioners would not comment yesterday, saying they would wait until they found out the results of today's meetings.

"It's been way blown out of proportion," Siconolfi said yesterday. "We're just trying to get more accountability into the process. There are so many good people involved in this, I'm confident we'll find a solution."

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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