When Councilman Tom Ognibene (R-Middle Village) and State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) were in high school a long, long time ago - parents, like their children, were expected to be seen and not heard. This was true in the city's public schools, and it was doubly true in the private high schools run by the Catholic church.
The Catholic high schools were and are a paternalistic society in which parents have little or no say. Thus, Ognibene, Maltese and the other board members who oversee Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village may be a bit taken aback by the reaction of students and parents to their decision to fire Elizabeth Lawlor, the school's principal.
Unfortunately, the board at Christ the King continues to act as though their decision to axe this well-liked administrator is nobody's business, not even Lawlor's. According to Barbara Lombardi, the president of the Parents Guild, parents have been shut out. They only know that Lawlor has been told to take a hike. No one has offered a word of explanation.
Ms. Lawlor has been employed by Christ the King for 15 years and has been principal for the last four years. She says she doesn't know why she was fired. Some of the students like Lawlor so much that they staged a one-day walkout to protest the firing. One parent told the Times/Ledger that Ms. Lawlor "made this school a community again." Others interviewed were less enthusiastic.
We don't pretend to know whether or not dismissing Lawlor was a wise decision. We are confident that keeping the parents in the dark is a distinctly unwise decision. It costs thousands of dollars to send a child to a private high school. That makes parents stakeholders. This is not the Middle Ages. If any school is to work well, parents should be made a part of the process. That doesn't mean that they should get to make personnel decisions. It does mean that they shouldn't be told that matters as important as the firing of the principal are none of their business.
The Parents Guild is there to do more than hold bake sales. They should not be asked to have blind faith in the benevolence of a paternalistic board.
If you live in southeast Queens, we have some bad news for you. You don't count. In fact, they don't even know you're here. And when they start cutting up the federal pie, your slice will be noticeably smaller than your neighbors
©2000 Community News Group
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