Ridgewood parents fight for their say

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Changes at one Ridgewood Catholic school are coming rapidly as the school year draws to a close, angering many parents who protested the new governing board’s decision to replace the school’s longtime principal at a heated meeting Tuesday night.

“The parents were emotionally charged up very much, some a lot more than others,” Siobhan Gibbons−McEntee, who has two children enrolled at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School at 62−01 61st St., said in a phone interview after the meeting. “I do feel like in some respects, we really didn’t get any answers.”

Church officials including Monsignor Edward Ryan and Bishop Frank Caggiano did say current faculty will be given first preference in the selection process and one empty spot on the new board will be offered to parishoners of the church, Gibbons−McEntee said.

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, or “Mirac,” as many call it, will become an academy in September, part of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s plan to convert all its elementary schools over the next five years.

With the change in designation comes a change in governance structure. Instead of being run directly by the parish, the school will be overseen by a board of directors who make recommendations to a higher board composed of the pastor of the parish, the pastor of the neighboring parish, the vicar general and the superintendent of the office of Catholic school support services.

Ryan said Tuesday afternoon that he saw the meeting as an opportunity to reconcile parents to the new arrangement.

“The hope is that this will bring people together in better understand­ing,” he said.

Parents at OLMM are upset because they believe they have been left out of the process of change, including the apparent ousting of Principal Margaret Baxter, who has run the school for the last 15 years.

Carla O’Malley, a parent volunteer, said she brought her four children to the school after the diocese closed Holy Cross School in 2002.

“We chose here because of Ms. Baxter and the faculty that was here,” she said. “We didn’t choose it because it was convenient. ... Now she’s being let go with no reason.”

Pat Kiprovski, who previously served on the school’s marketing committee, conceded that Baxter was not the easiest person to get along with, but had nothing but praise for the principal’s dedication to her students.

“It becomes one big family at that school,” she said. “Not everybody sees eye to eye all the time, but [for] the majority of the school, the kids, it’s great. ... She just goes out of her way on everything — fund−raising, marketing — she was the whole board by herself before this.”

Ryan said Tuesday afternoon that the new board had put out a request for applications for the principal position and interviewed several candidates — including Baxter — before choosing Virginia Daly, former principal of St. Aloysius School in Ridgewood, which will close at the end of the school year.

But the choice has not sat well with many parents.

“Our main goal now is not to have Ms. Daly to come in,” O’Malley said. “Nobody has heard anything good about her.”

Gibbons−McEntee said she was worried the school’s self−imposed end−of­the−month deadline for announcing next year’s teaching staff was fast approaching without any word on who would stay.

“So far, the decisions they’re making don’t seem to make sense,” she said. “The whole community is torn apart.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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