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Christ the King gets time to fight order to close charter school

By Serphin R. Maltese

Last week, Christ the King High School, Middle Village Preparatory Charter School, and Christ the King Continuing Education received the welcome news that a judge from the Appellate Division had granted us a temporary restraining order so that we have the necessary time to appeal a decision by Justice Marguerite Grays of Queens Supreme Court.

Justice Grays had denied requests from each of our institutions to stay enforcement of her March 23 order, requested by the Brooklyn Diocese, to force the Middle Village Preparatory Charter School to cease operations on the Christ the King campus. Our appeal is ongoing.

It is unclear why Justice Grays denied these requests after both MVP and CTK had already started their new school year. Despite the Brooklyn Diocese fighting our stay, no harm would be done to any of the parties by allowing the requested stay while our appeal is heard at the Appellate Division.

The fact is that any disruption to MVP will have consequences far beyond MVP itself. The potential impact of this ruling on MVP as an educational institution is devastating. The school will be faced with the almost impossible task of finding adequate new educational facilities in the middle of the school year and transitioning its operations, resulting in confusion and dislocation … if such facilities could even be found. It is well known that there is no comparable space available for MVP in the Middle Village area of Queens.

If MVP is forced to end its operation on the CTK Campus, and unable to find suitable space to operate, it will be forced to shut down. That is a cold, hard fact. The school’s 432 students, in grades 6 through 8, would need to be accommodated in public schools in one of the most overcrowded school districts in New York. This would be detrimental to their education, and a cause of severe anguish for parents who have seen their children thrive and succeed year after year with state math and reading scores.

Flooding the School District 24 with an influx of 432 students after the school year has already begun will also have a negative impact on other students far removed from the CTK campus, as well as the administrators and teachers in the public school system.

In addition to the turmoil visited on MVP families, the teachers, administrators and support staff, MVP will also be thrown into confusion with possible job losses if the school is forced to cease operations.

Over the last four years, MVP has become an essential presence on the CTK campus. Rent from MVP helps fund scholarships and grants for most of the 700 students at CTK. These funds add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars that directly affect CTK students and their families by keeping the high school tuition affordable for so many hardworking people in our community. Justice Grays’ decision puts these scholarships in danger of being defunded.

So, what is this really about if it can cause so much pain and disruption to so many people? The Diocese of Brooklyn says they have no issue with MVP, but it is their lawsuit that holds MVP students as hostages, that fights against MVP’s right to intervene and their intransigence at every turn, that puts MVP’s existence in peril.

The Diocese has refused to negotiate any terms with Christ the King High School unless we hand them back a “reverter” clause. The same court that the Diocese is using for all these legal challenges has ruled after a three-year lawsuit that the Diocese lost that “reverter.” It now seeks to regain the reverter by threatening MVP, its 432 students, and the stipends that enable almost 700 other students to attend Christ the King, a Catholic high school that is financially viable with no costs to the Diocese this year … nor any costs to the Diocese in our over 40 years of existence.

The legal counsels for all three entities CTK, MVP and CTKCE — are confident that we will prevail with the appeal of Justice Grays’ original ruling from March 2017. The decision by the appellate judge to grant us additional time to appeal the most recent ruling, while our case on the original March ruling is in the Appellate Division, is only fair.

Perhaps, with some additional time, the Diocese will reconsider this ill-advised and coercive law suit. Hopefully, the Diocese and the board of CTK can reach a fair agreement that benefits all parties, especially those students at both MVP and at Christ the King High School. After all the hard work by those students, who have achieved so much, after the teachers and administrators have invested so much, after over 40 years of success, it would be a blessing for all to let reason and compassion prevail.

Fairness and equity for the students, families, teachers, administrators and our communities affected by this law suit requires no less.

Serphin R. Maltese

Chairman of the Board Christ the King High School

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