Bishop's committee to hear protesters, others at Sacred Heart School Sunday
Members of the committee appointed by Diocese of Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell will meet with all interested people Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sacred Heart School gymnasium.
Meanwhile, organizers of a local group calling for the ouster of Sacred Heart School Principal Diane Fontenot cancelled plans to protest at the diocese office in Lafayette.
The protest had been planned for Wednesday, June 3. A spokesman for the local group, Jeffery Sylvester, said all protests are being called off while the committee looks into both sides of the issue.
The diocese announced the five members of what it calls a “Blue Ribbon Committee” on Wednesday, May 27. The chairman of the committee is Lafayette attorney Joseph Giglio Jr. The four other members of the committee are Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom, the Rev. Hampton Davis of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Lafayette, Gene Lognion and Camille Domingue.
Bishop Jarrell asked the committee to receive comments from the public and the Sacred Heart School administration, and urged it to make recommendations to the diocese by June 30.
Sylvester said the Blue Ribbon Committee has expressed its desire to hear all sides of the issue, and people who want Principal Fontenot’s to leave “will cooperate with the committee. We want to help in any way possible.”
Sylvester said he understands that during the meeting at the school today, people will be asked to make statements either in writing -- with 500 or less words -- or verbally. He said the meeting will serve to “jump start” the committee’s examination of the issues involved in the dispute.
“We feel strongly people need to come forward now,” Sylvester said. “We can’t sit on our hands” and wait for someone else to take action, he said.
He also said local opponents of the principal “are very grateful,” that the committee is volunteering it’s time. “We feel confident the committee will see what is happening,” at the school.
During protests in front of the school in May, people said during Fontenot’s five years as principal, the school had lost more than 80 teachers and some 200 students, which has affected the school’s budget to the point they are concerned for the future of the school. Diminishing enrollment was given as a reason for the recent closing of Trinity Catholic School in St. Martinville, also in the Diocese of Lafayette.
Local protesters also said parents had been intimidated into staying away from protests or other forms of opposition to Sacred Heart School and its policies.
A statement that parents or guardians of students were required to sign states, in part, “Sacred Heart School reserves the right to terminate the enrollment of any student(s) in the event that it is determined by the school’s administration that (1) a positive working relationship between the school and the parents/guardians no longer exists and/or is irreparably damaged...”
All media questions to Sacred Heart School were directed to the diocese. According to a statement issued by diocese spokesman Fr. Richard Greene on Wednesday, May 27, “It is hoped that the Blue Ribbon Committee may be able to identify all of the key problems and to recommend specific solutions. The good of students must be the first priority for the school family. The Blue Ribbon Committee members appreciate that Catholic schools are governed differently than public schools because of their unique mission as an authorized teaching ministry of the Catholic Church. Assessment of the current situation will proceed in accord with Catholic teaching and discipline.”
The diocese has stated it supports Principal Fontenot and it created the Blue Ribbon Committee to look at both sides of the dispute and render an impartial recommendation.