Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, came out of the diocese office in Brooklyn on Wednesday morning to directly address the parents and students of Middle Village Preparatory Charter School (MVP) as they rallied to try and keep their school open for this September.
When asked if the diocese would consider keeping MVP open while negotiations were taking place, DiMarzio said that would not happen because the board of trustees at Christ the King High School (CTK) needs to “negotiate now.”
“No, there’s no way,” DiMarzio said of keeping the school open past the June deadline. “It’s been seven years we’re working on this. It has to come to a point that they have to negotiate now for September.”
In 2013, CTK’s decision to open MVP on the Catholic high school’s campus violated the terms of an agreement made in 1976 between the CTK board of trustees and the diocese that stated the property on which CTK sits can only be used for a Catholic high school, and if the property was not used for that purpose, the land would be returned to the diocese. It also noted that consent from the diocese would be needed to use the space for any other ventures — such as operating a charter school.
In a letter sent out by the diocese on June 7, DiMarzio noted that CTK were informed they needed permission from the diocese to open and operate a charter school on the campus, yet the board of trustees went ahead with opening the school.
“I am willing to give that consent, provided that the officials of CTK adhere to the same conditions accepted by all other Catholic regional high schools and parishes in the Diocese,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, rather than acting in a manner consistent with all other high school administrators in the Diocese, and for reasons not yet fully known, the officials at CTK refused to cooperate. Sadly, the Diocese was left with no other option than to take legal action, which is unfortunate but necessary.”
Before heading back into the office, DiMarzio assured those who came to rally that the diocese wants to see MVP remain open and continue to flourish, but the onus falls on CTK to negotiate with the diocese.
“We want to keep your school open but it’s up to the board of Christ the King to negotiate with the diocese because they started the school without permission,” DiMarzio told concerned parents and students. “That’s what the court told us. That’s all we can do is follow what the court told us.”
Following the rally, parents were invited inside the diocese offices, located at 310 Prospect Park West, for what Diocese spokesperson Carolyn Erstad described in an email as a “very productive” meeting with diocese leaders.
Nick Comaianni, president of the Community Education Council 24 (CEC), urged DiMarzio and the diocese to drop the lawsuit against CTK, citing the “devastating impact” closing the charter school would have on the most overcrowded school district in the city.
“The influx of 400 new students displaced by your actions would make a terrible situation even worse in our schools and for our children,” Comaianni wrote. “While closing MVP might not be your intent, it almost certainly will be the result of the legal actions taken on your behalf.”
Parents of MVP have another rally scheduled for Tuesday, June 13, outside of the Queens County Court at 88-11 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica. That is the day the court is expected to hear oral arguments regarding the lawsuit.