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Families of Mother Seton School in Union City, NJ.

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To: Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, C.Ss.R., D.D., Archbishop of Newark, Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. McDade, Ed.D, Vicar for Education/Interim Superintendent of Schools, Barbara Dolan, Associate Superintendent of Schools, Sr. Marie Gagliano, MPF, Associate Superintendent for Elementary School Administration and Hudson County, and Rev. Aro Nathan, Pastor of St. Joseph & Michael Church in Union City, NJ.

The parents, school committee, students, and faculty of Mother Seton School in Union City, NJ, implore you to reconsider the closing of Mother Seton School on August, 31. Our beloved principal, Mary P. McErlaine, passed away unexpectedly on March 13, 2020. Mary was a dedicated and loving principal always putting the children first. The school environment is one of compassion providing a quality Catholic Education to residents of Hudson County since 1863.

The sudden death of our principal has been very tragic for the students, parents and faculty. Mary McErlaine was the pillar of the school! On top, we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The children were home and could not see their classmates to share their feelings and emotions. Some children have lost family members due to COVID and parents have lost their employment. Then the parents had to explain to their children that the Archdiocese decided to close their school. The children have been concerned, afraid, discouraged and are suffering because of that decision.

The only hope we have left, is for our Archbishop Joseph William Tobin to reverse the decision and keep Mother Seton School in Union City open.

It took the Archdiocese almost four months to appoint a new principal while children, faculty and parents were uncertain and frightened about the future of the school. On July 1, the Archdiocese of Newark announced the appointment of the new principal. The children were delighted to hear that a former teacher had been appointed as the new principal. This would ensure a transition that would make it less traumatic for the children.

Parents, faculty and students jumped right in to assist the new principal with preparations for the upcoming school year. They worked day and night to implement marketing and community outreach campaigns to attract prospective students and share the news about the appointment of a new principal. The message to the community of Union City and surrounding areas was of continuing commitment of the Archdiocese to education and the Hispanic community at large. The feedback of local residents has been 100% positive. Many residents know children that came through Mother Seton or have received Confirmation Classes or Communion preparation through the school!

In just four weeks, the school had 156 students enrolled and this during COVID-19!

Then out of the blue (to us), the Archdiocese contacted the school on August 3, 2020 to announce that the school will not be opening for the upcoming school year. Mother Seton had 156 registered students and no prior debt! The reasoning from the Archdiocese for closing the school is a “projected deficit” for the next school year.

How can you tell parents, students and faculty 3 1/2 weeks before the new school year that Mother Seton School is not allowed to open. This is simply outrageous, a lack of charity and goes against all Christian principles.

We applaud the efforts of the dedicated teachers at Mother Seton School who are committed to the children and education. None of the teachers, secretaries, custodians or other staff members will be hired for the new school year. They will be left behind, unable to find new employment in three weeks (before the new school year begins). Is this the example we are setting for the children and our neighbors?

There have been parents crying not knowing what to do next. A single mother with three daughters told us that she can’t afford the other Catholic school’s tuition and is desperate not knowing what to do with so little time left. The Archdiocese only covers the difference of tuition for the first year. Families are not able to make alternative plans.

Parents feel betrayed by the Archdiocese who seems to be more interested in the sale/ rental of the building than the children and families of the school and Union City, NJ. We pray that they keep the school open and decide against the sale/rental of the school building.

This is an opportunity for the Archdiocese of Newark to demonstrate their commitment to the people that they are called to serve. Mother Seton School is an Inner City School (95% of students are of Hispanic ethnicity). We remain committed to Catholic Education and Union City, NJ. Caritas Christi Urget Nos.

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