Parents Angry over Dismissal of Holy Cross Teacher

June 15, 2012

By John Burton


RUMSON — A group of parents and students at Holy Cross School are still seeking answers about why a fourth-grade teacher was dismissed at the end of the school year this week.


While the Rev. Michael Manning, pastor of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church and School, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Trenton and the teacher at the center of a controversy were not available for comment Friday, some students’ parents were quite willing to discuss the issue and voice their objections.

“This is so unbelievable that we can’t keep quiet,”
parent Siobhan Hogan said about Manning’s apparent decision not renew next year’s contract for fourth-grade teacher Bernadette Davis.

Hogan of Rumson, who has three children taught by Davis, joined other parents and students Thursday morning to hold a rally in front of Holy Cross Elementary School on Ward Lane.

According to Karen Thompson, a Middletown resident, parent and substitute teacher at Holy Cross, more than 100 participated in the demonstration.

“This is not a group of people who are confrontational,” Thompson said of those participating. “This is really a group of level-headed people who are good Christians who simply want to have a voice, simply want to have input with what goes on in their community.”

Thompson and Hogan charge Davis was in effect fired because she refused to tender an apology to a student and his parents for reprimanding the student last December.

The only response parents have gotten at this point, Thompson said, was Manning sending an e-mail stating “an administrative decision” had been made to not renew Davis’ contract and the school administration “will have no further comment on the matter.”

Davis, Hogan said, had been teaching at the Holy Cross for approximately seven years.

Hogan and Thompson said she has more than 40 years of teaching experience and retired from the New York Public School System before coming to work at Holy Cross.

“Mrs. Davis was in shock,” when the decision came down, Thompson said.

In the aftermath of his decision, the two women said Manning  declared a pastoral holiday and canceled school on Thursday, which was to be the last day of school year.

Thompson said she and other parents are incensed by Manning’s actions. “This is not a dictatorship; this is suppose to be a Christian community and the word community is simply not in Father Manning’s vocabulary,” she said.

“People were really out of their minds about it,” Hogan said.

There was what Hogan called an “impromptu meeting” that got “contentious and heated,” with Manning on Wednesday after the morning Mass service. During that meeting, attended by about 20 parents, including Hogan, Hogan said Manning told the parents “Why won’t she apologize?”

“Why is an apology so important when the good of the school is at stake?” Hogan asked.



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  1. There has been much talk and outrage over a series of events that could have been averted had Fr Manning only acted as the Catholic leader he should be to his parish. Instead he has backed away from resolving and reassuring our school and acted as an insulent child. It pains me deeply to say such a thing and I am never a parent to question or take sides. I try to do my part to keep the peace and assume our Pastor will always look out for our best interests. But there comes a time when you can no longer sit back and just be expected to take what ever comes at you, you must take a stand for what you believe in! What I believe in is simple. For an entire school of young children to be dismissed from the end of year festivities planned for the last day is hasty beyond belief. Children who worked hard all year to make honor roll were denied the proud opportunity of walking on stage in front of their peers and parents is appaling to me and I would expect is to any one who cares about our children! What they have been denied can not be given back. There were no end of year hugs and good-byes, uneaten cupcakes and unopened gifts to teachers and support staff. It is a right of passage representing their accomplishments that in no way shape or form should have stolen from our children.
    Not only was it a poor decision to cancel their last day but to cancel it after school had already been dismissed the day before. Their was chaos and tears amongst young children who were told by loud speaker to clear out theirs desks no more than an hour before they left for the day. And a surprise to teachers as well. Still parents had no idea any of this was going on. Parents and children alike showed up at school for the last day because they had not seen the late afternoon email stating solely that our Pastor had declared a “Pastoral Holiday” rather than the scheduled half day of school we were all expecting and looking forward to. Clearly this was an impulsive decision of convenience and benefitted no one, abruptly disrupting the lives of all of the children he is supposed to care so deeply about. Our children are confused and saddened as are the parents.
    To not address the inquiries over this move by such an overwhelming number of parents logically could not be ignored by any Principal in any school throughout our country! Why and how can this happen here in what has always been a close Christian community? We have been left bewildered and without guidance. What ever motivated this closing it was not one that took into consideration the families of Holy Cross School. It has caused upheaval and an uncomfortable division where there should be none!



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