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File photo/QNS
File photo/QNS
Middle Village Preparatory Charter School on the Christ the King High School campus.

Christ the King High School (CTK) and Middle Village Preparatory Charter School (MVP) have tallied yet another win in their legal battle with the Diocese of Brooklyn to keep the charter school alive.

On Sept. 19, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division voted unanimously to reverse a previous ruling from a lower court that would have forced MVP to cease operating on the campus of CTK in Middle Village.

The decision essentially brings the lawsuit filed by the Brooklyn Diocese against the Catholic high school “back to square one,” according to Josephine Lume, chair of the MVP board of trustees.

“We hope this fresh defeat for the diocese’s case will finally prompt diocesan leadership to drop the lawsuit and accept CTK’s invitation to achieve everyone’s common goals in partnership,” Lume wrote in a letter to the school community. “The diocese to date has not been interested.”

In November of 2013, shortly after CTK began subletting space on its campus to the newly founded MVP, the diocese filed a lawsuit against the high school claiming that the charter school’s presence violates the terms of an agreement between the two parties signed in 1976. That agreement, which allowed CTK to form a board of trustees and manage the school independently of the diocese, also reportedly contained a stipulation that CTK could not use the campus for any purpose other than the Catholic school’s functions.

In March of 2017 and again in September of 2017, a Supreme Court Justice ruled in favor of the diocese, but appeals by CTK allowed MVP to remain open during the proceedings. In February of 2018, the Appellate Division denied a motion put forth by the Diocese that would have prevented MVP from enrolling a new class for the 2018-2019 school year.

The most recent ruling by the Appellate Division on Sept. 19 overturned that March 2017 ruling.

As Lume explained in her letter, the ruling could mean that the case goes back to a lower court for a jury to decide whether CTK breached its contract with the diocese. CTK is arguing that it has become a “customary and usual practice” for charter schools to rent space in Catholic school buildings, and Lume cited the now-shuttered Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School a block away from the diocese headquarters in Brooklyn as an example.

Serphin Maltese, chair of the CTK board of trustees, also wrote a letter to the CTK community in which he hailed MVP as an “essential part of our community.”

“We could not be who we are without you — the parents, teachers, administrators, staff and students who have fought to protect and advance our academic, religious and spiritual traditions as well as to ensure our common mission endures long into the future,” Maltese wrote.

The two school communities have put up such a fight against the Diocese in large part because MVP has been one of the top-performing middle schools in New York since its inception. Parents of MVP students have organized several rallies in the past to advocate on behalf of the successful school.

Despite CTK and MVP seeming to have the upper hand, the diocese doubled down on its stance in a statement sent to QNS on Sept. 25.

“The recent decision of the Appellate Division merely held that there are questions of fact requiring a trial of Christ the King’s claim that public charter schools are customarily associated with Catholic high schools,” said a spokesperson for the diocese. “The Diocese believes that the facts will not support that claim.”

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