Middle Village Prep parents organize to take on Brooklyn Diocese
by Benjamin Fang
May 23, 2017 | 3883 views | 5 5 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students and parents at Middle Village Preparatory (MVP) Charter School are furious about the possibility of their school closing, and are now banding together to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The charter school’s board of directors hosted a parents forum inside the auditorium last Wednesday to explain their situation with the Brooklyn Diocese. Dozens of parents showed up seeking answers.

Josephine Lume, board chair of MVP, assured them that they’ll do everything to keep the doors open.

“We are confident we'll do everything we can to save the school,” Lume said. “We have not lost hope, we are doing everything we can.

“It’s hard for us to believe that anybody would kick 6th and 7th graders out,” she added. “We never expected this would happen. It’s our hope the diocese will see who they’re hurting, the children.”

Christ the King, whose campus hosts the middle school, is currently in a contractual dispute with the Brooklyn Diocese. According to MVP’s legal attorney Steve Adams, the agreement signed by the two parties limits Christ the King to “usual and customary” uses of a Catholic school.

Because MVP is a secular charter school, it violates the terms of their agreement, officials said.

“The order enjoins that Christ the King can’t lease anymore to a charter school,” Adams said. “Violating that will violate a New York State Supreme Court order.”

Although not directed at Middle Village Prep, the order will force MVP off the Christ the King campus, leaving them with little choice but to close, Lume said. The school is chartered by the State University of New York (SUNY).

“They just said MVP cannot be on the premises, but that opens up a difficult situation of where else can we find an adequate, good campus like this?” she said.

Former State Senator Serphin Maltese, vice chair of the board, described a similar situation between the Brooklyn Diocese and Christ the King four decades ago. The Diocese nearly shut down the school “without prior warning” due to a labor dispute with the union, he said.

When the school was on the verge of closure, Maltese said 1,500 panicking parents met in the auditorium. They formed a committee that requested to be part of the labor negotiations.

After the dispute, Maltese said the diocese “did not want to be involved” anymore, turning over control of the campus to the a committee of parents.

“They haven’t learned a thing in 40 years,” Maltese said. “Morals dictate they should not close MVP. The diocese is working against the very people they’ve sworn to serve.”

Michael Michel, a founder of the charter school, said what the Brooklyn Diocese really wants is for Christ the King to re-sign an expired “reverter clause” that would tie the campus back to the diocese.

That was a non-starter for the board, he said.

“It would be absurd for us to sign over the reverter to them,” Michel said. “Then we have nothing and they could do whatever they want with us.”

Although the lawsuit is between Christ the King and the Brooklyn Diocese, Maltese announced that the board voted to support a legal injunction to block the judge’s order.

Parents at the forum shared how much their families and children loved the school. Darlene DeSanti said the school has provided security and stability for her 7th grade daughter Daniella.

“MVP has become for our children a home,” DeSantis said. “The teachers have become our family.”

Nancy Adzemovic, who has a son in 7th grade and another child coming in next year, said her plan was always for her children to attend MVP.

“This is a beautiful school,” she said. “It’s really a connected community.”

When she found out about the dispute with the Brooklyn Diocese that could potentially close the school, she was upset and angry.

“I couldn't believe the Brooklyn Diocese would take advantage of these students, of these families,” Adzemovic said. “Where is my child going to go? How are they displacing so many families?”

Drawing lessons from the past, the parents gathered after the forum to exchange contact information and create a plan. Delvis Valdes, who has two children at MVP, said parents now have to “galvanize” and take action.

Valdes, a real estate attorney who is running for City Council in Sunset Park, asked parents to withhold tidings from their local parishes to send a clear message.

“What seems to get through to their heads is dollars,” he said. “Perhaps if we all start writing to the bishop and explain that we’re going to withhold our tidings, our gifts, our offerings, it might get through to the bishop’s head.”

The parents also discussed other actions, such as flooding social media with posts, marching from Queens to Brooklyn, and even protesting in front of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s house.

Adzemovic said after the forum, she felt empowered and supported to let her voice be heard.

“I think we will go to our parish and speak up and go to the diocese and write letters,” she said.

DeSantis said she’ll let the diocese know that when their kids graduate, they won’t look at Catholic schools in the future.

“We’ll keep our money,” she said.

Adzemovic added that she really believes it’s about the money for the diocese.

“It changes my outlook on a lot of things I once thought were pure and honest,” she said. “Brooklyn Diocese represents faith, family and trust. All those things now I'm very worried about.”
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Marie J
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May 29, 2017
BISHOP JAMES MASSA’S ADDRESS TO PARENTS AND STUDENTS

Dear Parents and Students,

I am writing to clear up some misinformation that was disseminated by the administrations of Christ The King Catholic High School and Middle Village Preparatory Charter School. Letters sent home to students and parents indicated that the Diocese of Brooklyn is ordering the closure of Middle Village Prep. This is a misrepresentation of the truth and we at the diocese feel it is our obligation to clarify the facts.

The Diocese of Brooklyn believes in education, both parochial and public. Multiple charter schools currently utilize or share space in Catholic high school and parish buildings throughout the Diocese with the full support of the Church. We wish to see all of these schools, including Middle Village Prep, continue to thrive. But the power to keep Middle Village Prep open lies with Christ the King High School.

In recent years Christ the King has refused to re-affirm and honor its long-standing covenant with the Diocese of Brooklyn—a covenant that is honored by all other Catholic regional high schools in the Diocese. This covenant requires that these high schools operate in consultation with the Diocese when conducting enterprises unrelated to their function as Catholic schools.

After years of unsuccessful efforts to work in cooperation with Christ the King High School, the Diocese of Brooklyn was left with no other recourse but to file a lawsuit. In March of 2017, and after several years of litigation, the Supreme Court ruled that use of the premises for the operation of a charter school is a breach of Christ the King’s agreement with the Diocese. The court ordered Christ the King to discontinue the use of the premises for a charter school without the permission of the Diocese, effective at the end of the current academic year.

The diocese has made it clear to Christ the King that it will permit use of the property for a charter school, hence allowing Middle Village Prep to remain open. The diocese’s sole requirement is that Christ the King adhere to the same conditions accepted by all other Catholic regional high schools and parishes in the diocese.

It is the Diocese of Brooklyn’s fervent hope and prayer that Christ the King will forever continue to serve the young men and women of the Diocese and that the property will continue to serve the most worthy cause of education.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Tanya Smith
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May 28, 2017
The problem is that Christ The King Board of Trustees CREATED this public school on their campus. Christ the King Board Members DID NOT RENT, they created for their campus. This breaks the Diocesan agreement. Now everyone is upset with the Diocese. NO, the typically defiant Board of Trustees at CK knew what they were doing and the Diocese tried to stop it from the start. CK said they were doing it anyway and in 2013 the Diocese filed a lawsuit which has just been settled in 2017 that the Diocese was right all along. They did not just come around now to shut the school. Once again, Christ the King High School is so full of scandals over the years!
Tommy A.
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May 28, 2017
I agree, Middle Village Prep is not a third party charter school created by others and wanted to rent space from Christ The King. The President wrote the proposal to have NY create the school. That is against the Diocesan agreement and he used is position and the property from the start. But this is not the first time. The independent Day Care Center is run by the daughter of a Christ the King Board. It is amazing the morals of CK Board members!
anonymous
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May 28, 2017
The Diocese is only asking that the school property be given back to the Diocese, who built the school with the donations of diocesan gifts from the parishioners, be reverted back like the other schools have agreed to if CK closed down, which is unlikely. So if the Diocese doesn't get the property back, who gets it? Serphin Maltese or Michael M. for free to sell it for a profit and split the millions? Common Sense and morals should prevail by CK's Board. The Diocese is only looking for CK to follow the same rules followed by the other High Schools who rent to charter schools and Middle Village Prep, even though CK Board disobeyed the rules and created it with the objections of the Diocese, has said that MVP could remain on campus. But of course, these former 'politicians and lawyers' on the CK Board are always defiant.

Christina Vega
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May 25, 2017
KEEP MVP OPEN!!

Why?? Because this school change our comunity our kids is our family..

Best Decision!! Me and my husbane made was to send our Daughter and son go this beautiful school. My daughter was for the first Grad class 2016 .. Best eduaction ever and also my daughter leave school and teacher and staff keep motivate my daugher.. to keep doing good and too keep taking good decision in life.. To my Daugher an all the kids doing the samething.. For me that is a great !! Only this Teacher for this school do that because other school never do that.. Teacher and Staff goes above and beyond!! People who love kids .. This is first time my kids felling so Happy going to school.. Our kids need more school like this ..Where teacher and personal care about children.. Believe me this school you felling like family.. I love every one person for this school and my kids too .. My son is doing great and he have a Ip.. Thank to this wonder full teacher and he fell motivate every day to go to school... I can be all day here because this is school is a dream for every kids and parents.. Thank You! MVP

Mvp stand united !!

KEEP MVP OPEN!! Is very important work together going to be strong to the fight United for our school.

Att: Christina Vega