Alumni fear for future of Christ the King High School following lawsuit

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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Parents and former students are upset over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s lawsuit against Christ the King High School.

Alumni and parents of current Christ the King High School (CK) students are blasting the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn after it filed a lawsuit against the institution last week.

The Diocese is suing the school to force the Board of Trustees to reaffirm an agreement that says the institution must remain a Catholic high school or relinquish control, which is a long-standing promise between the two parties.

However, people are seeing the move by the Catholic organization as a money grab and are afraid the Diocese might try to close the school.

“I was upset by it,” said Janet LaCava, a Christ the King alumna. “I think that CK has worked hard to make it a self-sustaining entity, and with so many schools closing, to possibly cause an excellent school to close when it is doing so well, does not make sense to me.”

In the mid-1970s CK was on the verge on closing due to financial problems, according to numerous sources close to the school. At that time the Diocese transferred control of the school to the Board, under the request that the school stay a Catholic high school. The members of the board, which were made up of parents, eventually returned the school from financial strains.

Presently, the Board has found a way to generate cash by opening up continuing education classes such as dance and Spanish, a day care and a preschool. Additionally, this year they started renting space to a public charter school, Middle School Preparatory. In the last three years the school, which costs about $9-10 million yearly to operate, has made about $3.7 million from these measures, according to Thomas Ognibene, the school’s lawyer.

That money has gone to making repairs and underwriting tuition for CK students.

The Diocese has said that it requires schools that have opened Charter schools donate 40 percent of rent revenue to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, which helps disadvantaged students afford a Catholic elementary school education, and that CK has not complied. But Ognibene said that in July the Board agreed with the Diocese to a plan to pay more than $1.7 million over the next five years, which includes the 40 percent of rent revenue from the charter school.

Ognibene fears that the Diocese is planning to reacquire the school and close it.

“This is a very shallow plan by the Diocese,” he said. “There is no question in our minds that they want to close the school. They are clearly going out of the business of Catholic education.”

“We have said a 100 times that we have no intention to close the school,” said Marty McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the Diocese. “We love this school. Our question is what has been going on over there?”

Christ the King has until November 24 to reply to the lawsuit.