Parent Update #6
6 October 2020
Please find the attached letter sent to the Archdiocese of Detroit:
Letter sent to Parish, PPC, SAC and HSA: “For Your Information and Items of Concern Letter 6 October 2020”
Dear Most Rev. Arturo Cepeda,
The Parents’ Governance and Transparency Sub-Committee of St. Ignatius Catholic School have still not received an acknowledgement or a response to any of our communications with the Archdiocese of Detroit (the “AOD”) up to this point. We have been forthright, cordial and open in our communications and would have hoped that our commitment to a sincere collaboration would have warranted the courtesy of a response and a willingness to engage in open dialogue from the AOD and Parish.
We do not understand the continued non-engagement by the AOD, the administrator and the parish of St Ignatius despite the sub-committee’s multiple communications and its representation of over 450 parents of our school (as evidenced by the petition signatures sent to you). We now feel we have no option but to approach the Cayman Islands government and regulatory authorities for a viable solution to the inadequate impasse we find the school in. We have already formally contacted the Ministry of Education and the General Registry (NPO) for assistance.
The complete absence of any communication has greatly compounded the unease and disquiet within the school community of parents and teachers. We remain of the opinion that ignoring the requests for acknowledgment of the pressing concerns of the parents of 699 students is unsustainable; cannot be in the best interests of the school or the church; and will undermine any attempt at finding a solution that works for all stakeholders in our school.
We will also continue to provide the parents and school community with a full recount of our requests to date. This will include clarification on the misinformed statements made to the Cayman press by the Archdiocese as the school and community have not evidenced these claims of attempts to engage with the parents.
Having received no response, it appears to us as parents that our concerns are being treated as trivial by the Archdiocese of Detroit and the pastor. We require action, resolution and inclusion in resolving the current crisis at the school in order to ensure our children and their education are protected. We are not prepared to accept the current status quo and will continue to campaign for a resolution that is acceptable to our catholic and school community, a target we believe is achievable. It is not unreasonable to recognize that the inclusion, or at the very least engagement, of the parents in resolving the current crisis at the school, in order to ensure our children and their education are protected, is a vital component for a successful outcome.
Issues within the school and faculty are worsening by the week. We previously provided you with full detail as to the issues which we were aware of at the time of writing. Since then we have been made aware of many more issues, most of which acutely affect the school. We list below the immediate and pressing concerns we have as they relate directly to the school and faculty. Lest anyone considers these matters to be ‘standard’ or ‘normal’, we have made enquiries of the two other private schools on the island and neither have had any resignations since the beginning of the school year. In addition to the very concerning resignation of our Head of School, St Ignatius currently has at least six more resignations in the last two weeks, with many teachers carefully watching developments before deciding on their future at the school. We have heard confidentially from teachers that there are many more resignations that will be received if this situation is not resolved and in particular if the Head of School does not remain. This situation is deeply distressing to parents. This cannot be allowed to continue and it must be resolved immediately. The Archdiocese’s unwillingness to communicate remains inexplicable to us and is contrary to our belief in a solution that would be beneficial to all parties and the co-operative effort expected from parents.
Aside from the serious governance and transparency shortcomings that we have communicated and have led to the current situation the following has come to our attention and must be addressed without any further delay:
- Increasing number of resignations: 7 confirmed and 2 additional allegedly.
- Shortage of text books in the high school (Year 12 exam class did not have textbooks required for English, for example (see also point 19 below regarding supplies) at the start of the year and books had to be sourced locally at extra cost).
- Confusion around the Sports Hall, is it stopped or moving forward? We understand a letter was sent to donors before the school broke for the summer holidays, but not to teachers and not to parents, saying the building works were postponed. The Sports Hall was also to house much needed extra classrooms.
- Parents have started requesting returns of their donations to the Sports Hall.
- Question arises if the balance of funds should be returned to all donors.
- One signatory on bank accounts (one of which holds millions of dollars for the Sports Hall).
- Local banks have raised concerns with compliance issues and lack of controls as an NPO with a sole signatory on the bank accounts.
- Air conditioning in Loyola Hall has not been repaired despite being approved in the February 2020 budget and despite, we are told, the funds available in the bank account.
- Health insurance change without consultation with the School or assistance from professionals (common with all organizations switching providers given the complexities comparing plans).
- Children’s drinking water filters not being maintained in a timely manner. It is completely unacceptable at a fee paying school for children to be drinking unfiltered water when the largest structure on our island is the George Town landfill which seeps into the water table below.
- Despite being approved in the February 2020 budget and then again in the Finance Committee meeting with both the Administrator of Parish and Head of School in attendance, specific teacher hires were vetoed after this approval and did not occur. This left the English and Maths departments, in particular, short of staff going into the new school year in September 2020.
- Due to lack of teachers, Year 7 classes are being held as two mixed ability classes of 27 students each, instead of the proper complement of three classes.
- Due to the lack of teachers, almost the entire maths department in the high school has now resigned.
- Almost the entire languages department in the high school has also now resigned.
- In the absence of a Head of School there is concern over who may be managing the recruitment of new teachers and whether this has been prioritized.
- NPO filings are not current and up to date. In fact, it appears NPO filings were never made. The structure is not in place to be compliant with Cayman Islands’ regulatory requirements around transparency and governance.
- Interactive white boards were purchased but not installed.
- Quotes were received for the professional installation of the white boards but the expenditure was not approved. A parishioner was asked to complete the installation at a lower cost. There is concern that this person is not qualified and therefore the warranties will be void or the interactive white boards will not be installed at all.
- The annual School supplies order requested in February 2020, was not ordered. A revised order was requested of the teachers in May, but again the expenditure was not approved and the order was not made. It was discovered in August that there were no supplies for September opening, teachers had to source locally
- Rather than purchasing new laptops refurbished laptops have been used and this has created an increase in technical issues taking time from students learning. Why are students using refurbished laptops when there is a surplus on the school finances?
- There are no longer enough laptops for a primary class and so learning is theory based on coding instead of practical
- There are no longer enough laptops to do primary assessments as a class. They have had to move to small groups of 6 which takes time from teaching.
- Regular maintenance of the buildings and common areas has not been carried out, walkways are exposed to elements, there was no covering provided for the extra sanitation sinks (installed for post-COVID) until parents donated tents.
- There are limited resources for teachers, taking time from their planning to create or source to ensure effective lessons. Teachers are further challenged by the inability to print in colour or to allow teachers to print directly, making day to day work cumbersome and slow.
- The Cayman Compass article of Friday 25th September 2020 made many allegations of regulatory failings and referred to a letter to the school from the General Registry and in particular the Head of Compliance, Mr. Paul Inniss. We understand that the SAC (the former board of the school) first heard of the letter to the school in the Cayman Compass article and had not been consulted or invited to assist. The SAC would appear to be the obvious body (with a lawyer as it’s Chairperson) to assist the Church and the school right the wrongs and bring the school in line with the NPO regulations. Who is addressing these regulatory failings?
- Other concerns that need to be addressed are as follows (whilst there may be no evidence of the following there are rumours and parents need to be reassured that management are dealing with the issues):
- Has the Ombudsman instigated an investigation into the school governance?
- Has the Ministry of Education instigated an investigation into the school governance?
- Has the Department of Labour and Pensions instigated an investigation into the school and are all staff pension payments current and up to date?
- Has the Health Commission instigated an investigation into the school and are all health insurance payments current and up to date, including those to the previous health insurance provider?
As we have stated before, we are deeply concerned regarding the governance of the school and the lack of transparency that has led to the current situation. We have not only provided a framework that would alleviate many, if not all, of the current concerns but would also help strengthen the community of the parish and protect the Church from repercussions.
We would like to reiterate that we are motivated solely by what is best for the children. Our children’s education is being gravely impacted by the instability in the current situation and we have no choice but to remain engaged until this situation is resolved with the input of the parents.
Yours in faith,
Find our letter here:
Please do continue to engage with us and other parents, and if you are aware of parents who have not signed the petition and support the objectives, do ask them to add their name to the petition.
Yours in Faith,
Parents’ Governance and Transparency Sub-Committee
St. Ignatius Catholic School