St. Mary school
Parents upset about staff cuts
School buses wait outside St. Mary's School on South 3rd Street in German Village on April 15, 2013.
A group of St. Mary Catholic School parents said they will hold a prayer vigil every Monday at the school until they get some answers from administrators.
At issue is the school's decision to not renew the contracts of a half dozen educators, who won't be returning next year to the German Village parochial school at 700 S. Third St.
"That's just meant to support our teachers," parent Lindsay Ellwood said of the vigils. "We don't want to turn it into a nasty battle."
Parents are upset with the decision and have some doubts about the school's future, said Ellwood, who has a third- and fourth-grader at St. Mary.
School administrators directed all calls to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, whose spokesman, George Jones, said he couldn't answer specific questions that involved personnel matters.
However, he did say that this school year, 172 of the school's 237 students used the Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship program, Jones said.
Also known as EdChoice, it provides a limited number of scholarships to students who attend persistently under-performing public schools. That was up from 161 students last school year, he said.
The taxpayer-funded scholarships provide up to $4,250 of the school's annual tuition rate, which will be raised next year to $5,950 for non-parishioners and $4,650 for parishioners.
A letter, signed by Principal Luna Alsharaiha and Rev. Don Franks, was distributed in late February asking parents to assist the school in increasing student enrollment to 250 by March 22.
In a follow up letter sent the first of April, Alsharaiha announced budget cuts would force reductions at the school, including staff.
Then, Thursday, April 18, Alsharaiha sent another piece of correspondence, saying "there has been a strong desire for communication" but acknowledging "personnel information cannot be communicated in a timeline that is satisfactory to everyone and some information can never be communicated."
She did share that one teacher had accepted another position in New Albany and budget cuts have caused the elimination of library and kindergarten positions. Four teachers are not being offered a contract.
"We've had some good experiences with these teachers," said parent Mike McLane, who has children in the second and sixth grades.
"I'm not sure that I understand why they're leaving or why they shouldn't be renewed," McLane said.
Alsharaiha said music, art and gym will not be affected. New staff members will organize and implement such popular activities as Battle of the Books, Power of the Pen and Right to Reed week.
Ellwood, meanwhile, said she's upset with the ambiguous message coming from the school. She said parents should have been notified of any budget shortfalls.
"We want to become part of the solution," she said.
"It's really disappointing," McLane added. "I wish they had been more open with information with the parents before the decisions were made rather than afterward."
And, parents who live in the neighborhood said they don't have a better option, Ellwood said. St. Mary offers a quality education and many parents are actively involved, she said.
"People don't want to leave this school because it's what they know and they're very happy with everybody who's there," she said. "It's family. But we still want answers and we would still want some decisions reversed.