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.”