Letter to Sr. Hilda Ponte

Dear Sr. Hilda Ponte, We are writing this letter in response to Sr. Pauline’s memo to staff and parents and posted on Venerini Academy’s website on Friday, February 12, 2010. While the letter indicates some awareness that this continues to be an extraordinarily painful period for the entire Venerini Academy family, we are concerned that you and the administration are not aware of how dire the situation is. It is clear from our perspective that we are in crisis. Parents, students and contractors have been deeply hurt and even if funds were to miraculously appear tomorrow, the trust that has been broken will not be repaired. We don't believe that there will be an opportunity to save the school if there isn't immediate action and a strong and public display on your part of reaching out to parents and supporters and acceptance of their help. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and so we regretfully have come to the decision that we will be withholding our tuition deposits for next year until we can be genuinely assured that the following issues have been addressed. The Venerini sisters’ philosophy of educating states, “Our goal as Christian educators is to give service through prayer, teaching and participation in the cause of social justice. We encourage students to reach out to those who are in need of assistance.” How can we expect our children to live and learn by this philosophy when the leaders of Venerini do not do the same? Is it moral and worthy of trust to do the following: • Repeatedly mislead the contractors about payment: These falsehoods have disrupted the lives of families both inside and outside of the Venerini community and have been a source of grave injustice. • Fail to communicate with parents: You have an obligation to communicate with us in an open and honest dialog. How can the administration ask for trust and yet refuse to trust parents and supporters with the truth? Trust can only be the result of a mutual effort to build a relationship of respect. • Refuse to accept guidance from friends of the Venerini community: You disbanded the Advisory Board that you individually selected to offer advice. You turned away contractors who were willing to partner with you to help solve your financial difficulties. You ignored professionals in the fields of business, finance, law and parochial education who extended a hand and offered counsel. As a community, our trust has been broken. To even begin to consider the possibility of “renewing our trust,” as Sister Pauline requested in her memo, we respectfully request the Venerini Sisters and the administration of Venerini Academy take the following steps: • Acknowledge the problem. This project should not have been started until the money was in hand. The writing of numerous bad checks has only perpetuated the problem. The lack of forthrightness since the project’s inception is in stark contrast to the core values and teachings of Saint Rosa Venerini. • Support the staff. You have an obligation to ensure that our teachers, Venerini’s greatest asset, feel secure and supported within their jobs. They should not have to be worried about their job security. • Reinstate an Advisory Board immediately. This board should be comprised of parents and local community leaders. These individuals should be chosen for their unique ability to position the school for the future and be viewed as allies, not foes. • Espouse transparency. The process, moving forward, of securing Venerini Academy’s overall stability must be transparent. We expect clear, detailed, consistent and timely communication. We do not support the distribution of messages hidden within a website accessible to a few or letters that offer no detail. It is our hope that you will join with us to begin rebuilding this trust that has deteriorated over the past six months. With your renewed commitment, we look forward to a secure, stable and even stronger Venerini Academy in the years to come. Finally, Sr. Hilda, you must know that we, parents, are not the enemy. We have placed our children in the care of Venerini Sisters and staff and have come to know and cherish the philosophy of education that is St. Rosa’s legacy. We believe that “to educate is to liberate”, and desire nothing more than to perpetuate the core values of St. Rosa Venerini for generations to come. Respectfully yours,

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