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Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
The Church in the Garden School in Forest Hills could potentially be closed until a new education director is found.

The Church in the Gardens Nursery School (CITG) in Forest Hills faces potential immediate closure, according to the school’s board of trustees.

This Friday is the two-week deadline given to the board to come up with a solution, but as of May 1, both the nursery and UPK programs have classes in session.

In response to this threat, the group “CITG Parents” started a petition on Change.org to get 100 signatures in support of keeping the school open. The board called for a meeting with parents this Thursday, May 3, but some parents are unsure about what the meeting will entail.

“It was hard to tell from the email if this was an idle threat or a true situation where the school will be shut down. My instinct is, yes they will close,” said Kate DeFao, a parent of a CITG pre-K student.

“The school’s director, Pauline Elliott, resigned on March 19. Despite the 40+ days that have passed since her resignation, the position remains vacant in violation of the requirements of the Department of Health and Board of Education,” according to the petition.

The group added that the board needed to exhibit “good faith efforts” to fulfill the education director position, or they would incur additional fees and penalties from both the DOH and BOE.

Despite the efforts of parents to remedy the issue, they have been met with resistance from the board of trustees. Several parents have attempted to contact the board to suggest candidates for director, but they claim it takes “days” to get a response or they are ignored altogether. Another qualified parent volunteered for the position, but was informed there would be a “conflict of interest.”

DeFao added that the parents are requesting that the board find a suitable replacement for educational director, and “at the very least” that their children are allowed to finish the school year uninterrupted.

According to one parent who has been working closely with the board and wishes to remain anonymous, the school has been run autonomously from the church, and church members and administrators were surprised to hear about the issues the school was facing. DeFao said that she was not clear about why the church was not informed, but surmises that the school may have wanted to “operate in silence” and not inform the church administrators about their decisions.

“As former director, as well as church and community member, I am well aware of the destructive politics taking place within the church as an issue of maintaining a damaging management style and ‘complete trustee control’ over the church office and facilities,” former CITG Director Pauline Elliott noted in the petition’s comments.

CITG Parents also said that they wish to gain the authority to create a “more beneficial reorganization of the school” and spearhead a committee in the the search for the school’s new director. This responsibility lies with the board, and the parents do not have the jurisdiction to make these decisions.

“This is an incredible program, with exceptional teachers and a loving community of children and parents and we want to make sure it remains as part of our community for many years to come,” said the CITG Parents. Other parents who have children enrolled in CITG echoed similar sentiments on the petition’s page.

As of May 1, the petition has garnered 138 signatures from supporters. The link for the petition can be found here.

“We want to hear solutions [from the board] and want to feel that they’re as invested in finding as we are. If we are told that there is no one to fill the role, we will continue to fight,” DeFao said.

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