My name is Lorelei Cortez and I’m the kindergarten teacher at St. Mary’s School in San Francisco Chinatown. Earlier this week, we, the faculty, were notified of our school’s “suspension” (closing) after students, family, and our alumni association were informed. Naturally, it came as a shock.
After attending last night’s community forum at Old St. Mary’s, I became fully aware of just how heartless and unsympathetic the administration (SF Archdiocese, Father Bart Landry, Principal Louis “Tony” LesCallett) has been in the complete mismanagement of our school’s finances and future.
Contrary to the Christian spirit, the SF Archdiocese is casting out the SF Chinese community (more than 90 years ago, the school was built specifically to evangelize and unite the Chinatown community) from the Catholic church over a $5 million loan (issued by the SF Archdiocese to fill the gap after parents, alumni, and private donors raised $17 million) and a $300K annual deficit that they believe can’t be overcome with our low enrollment. However, as discussed last night in the community forum, the SF Archdiocese has blocked attempts for Chinese international students to attend our school citing a “language barrier” as the primary reason. Sources close to the school allege that this year alone, Tony LesCallett refused to take six students, whose combined tuition would be roughly $150K.
Dollar amounts aside, the Archdiocese has neglected to consider the well-being of our students, who are far beyond the deadlines for both public school and competitive private schools. The SF Archdiocese CFO Joe Passarello(less than two years in his position) and interim superintendent Nina Russo claimed that the decision was years in the making, but families were not given notice or the opportunity to rally and meet milestones in a well thought out marketing/fundraising campaign. There was no transparency or collaboration done by the SF Archdiocese.
Furthermore, as one of the oldest schools in the Archdiocese with the first cathedral erected west of the Mississippi River, Archbishop Cordileone has failed to grant us the decency of his appearance and/or a statement/response to the community’s outrage. Our 2nd graders wrote letters to Cordileone. We were unable to mail them to him or have a member of the Archdiocese guarantee deliverance.
I want the community and our families to know that we haven’t given up fighting. This has only just begun and as a family we will overcome the barriers laid out by the SF Archdiocese.