Thursday, January 9, 2014

Speaking to truth...

Great to see the students, parents and alumni speaking up to the ongoing injustice within this school and in the Seattle Archdiocese.
January 8, 2014
Dear Eastside Catholic Friends,

Many have asked for meeting minutes or at least a recap of what was discussed on our alumni call. There were about 50 people on the line. These are my takeaways and I don’t mean to speak on behalf of the whole group, but I think it will help in beginning to outline where we can go from here.

In our minds there are four distinct issues (in no particular order), and we need to respect that not all people are involved for the same reasons as the other, but all reasons are equally legitimate. Those issues are (1) Religion/Catholic Doctrine, (2), LGBT Rights, (3) Wrongful Termination, and (4) Poor Leadership. 

I will address each individual issue below, but before I do, I’d like to point out that we are not kids anymore. EC alumni have grown up and we have the education, the wherewithal, and the means to amplify the student protests to a point of global change. 

In my opinion, it is nearly impossible that the status quo will remain at Eastside Catholic. This is not an issue of money or capacity but one of strategy. What we need to determine now is not how we will punish and replace the EC administration for making mistakes (the consequences will come in due course, likely with or without our intervention), but how we will rebuild the school to be something that makes us proud.

So without further ado, here are the key issues as I see them. You are welcome and encouraged to participate in whichever categories move you to action!

1. Religion/Catholic doctrine. Many feel the Church needs to, and eventually will, change. But as we all know, the Church is on a different timeline than our exceptionally liberal state in our exceptionally liberal country. Despite this, part of the “Z-Day” concept is our vision to have ALL Catholic schools in the US participate so that more than just the Archdiocese of Seattle feels pressure. Potential partners are organizations like Faithful America. This is not an easy road, and we could use some experts in Canon Law to assist in getting the student voices heard all the way to the Vatican. If you are interested in being on this committee, let us know. Please note: we have non-religious and non-Catholic folks that are equally incensed, but this issue alone does not cover their concerns.

2. LGBT Rights. Unrelated to EC or religion, our country is on the verge of major change when it comes to LGBT rights. Marriage equality laws are passing throughout the country, and very recently in Washington State. The law is still nascent when it comes to enforcing these new rights and many would like to see them apply in every possible circumstance. Social Outreach Seattle has been instrumental in amplifying the student concerns as well as many other LGBT-focused media outlets and non-profits. The ultimate goal here is to see a day where all people are allowed to live freely as they were made. Similar to the Catholic topic, however, some of our more conservative constituents are not interested in hanging their flag on the pro-gay rights movement. We respect this too. If you are interested in being on this committee, let us know.

3. Wrongful termination. There are undoubtedly employment law issues at play. EC will probably have some legal rights because of their affiliation with the Catholic Church but they do not have the right to cherry-pick what rules they enforce. One suggestion is to insist that the employee contracts specify that teachers are obligated to teach Catholic doctrine, but they are not required to adhere to it in their personal lives. Example: we had a beloved Jewish math teacher who taught at EC for decades. There is no way she could abide by Catholic doctrine outside of the classroom, but if you asked her whether she thought birth control should be allowed, she simply stated that she believed she was obligated in her contract to teach certain Catholic views. No one expected her to lie to the students about the fact that she was Jewish. No one expected her to follow Catholic doctrine in her personal life. If you are interested in exploring this issue or any other creative litigation strategies, let us know.

4. Poor leadership. In my personal opinion, and I suspect in many of yours, the poor leadership of the board and the administration (not only Sr. Mary) has contributed to an oppressive and ongoing hostile work environment at EC. Dozens of teachers have left in the past few years; many are still in a mild state of depression over the undemocratic environment. As a proud Crusader who has tried numerous times to get the administration to respond, this is wholly unacceptable to me and the area I am most passionate about. While I do believe we will get our way as to the ousting of Sr. Mary, I still believe a major revision of the bylaws will be necessary. Some suggestions we’ve heard so far including the following: 

I. Make sure at least two alumni and two faculty (former or current) are on the board. 

II. Ensure a democratic process applies in wider circumstances than in school finances so that singular powerful board members cannot dictate school policy.

III. Parents of current students may be allowed limited seats on the board and must recuse themselves of voting in certain situations. 

IV. Ensure the faculty has a formal vote in the hiring of the new President. 

V. Ensure a grievance policy is in place for faculty to use when board members or administrators misbehave. 

VI. Suggestion: Go back to the President/Principal model. EC went to this model and it was explained that the president dealt with outside the school house issues (i.e. fundraising) and the principal would deal with in the school house issues (curriculum, etc.) In the event of a disagreement, the Board would hear both sides and take a vote.

If you’d like to discuss any of the above, we are looking for committee members for each category. Thanks for caring, thanks for reading, and thanks for helping our world be a better place for everyone!

Mary K 

Mary Kopczynski, J.D./Ph.D.
EC Class of 1996

No comments:

Post a Comment