Parents confront trustees over Limerick school closure

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Labour councillor Tom Shortt sparked anger among parents, in particular John McCarthy, NCR, after he said the closure was a 'done deal'. Picture: Gareth Williams
PARENTS who are furious at the planned closure of the Salesians Secondary School at Fernbank have called for the resignation of its trustees.

PARENTS who are furious at the planned closure of the Salesians Secondary School at Fernbank have called for the resignation of its trustees.

More than 150 parents and students were at the Ardhu Bar on the Ennis Road for a public meeting, where it was decided the trustees would be confronted en-masse at an open evening late last night.

They believe that the trustees, who rubber-stamped the merger of the school with St Nessan’s Community College in Moylish have acted illegally, and claimed they do not have the right to do this.

The school is to close in 2015, with pupils and staff transferring to a new school at St Nessan’s in Moylish, named St John Bosco Community College.

Mary McCarthy, of the North Circular Road, said: “The trustees are there to look after the interests of the interested parties in the school. We know it is the students, the teachers and the parents.”

She criticised the fact the decision was made behind-closed doors without any parental consultation. “The only good thing done in secret is a surprise party. We all know secrecy in this country has led to devastation.”

She led the calls for the trustees to resign, saying: “They have got no legal right [to close the school]without consulting the interested parties.”

Ms McCarthy said each parent should have been given a report outlining the reasons for the closure.

Fianna Fail local election candidate Joe Crowley, who facilitated the meeting, said: “The school is thriving. Pupils have come here from other schools. It is not an argument about amalgamation per se. It is the fact they don’t want to move to Ardscoil Ris, or any other school.”

Parent Donal Ryan believes the trustees could be in breach of contract law, saying: “My understanding is the parents who had their children go into first year were offered and accepted an education for their children in an all-girls schools for the duration of their education. When a contract is entered into, both parties must make sure they can deliver on it, or else they are in breach of contract law.”

He wants to see the parents get legal advice, with the possibility of mounting a challenge to reverse the closure.

Around 10 to 12 teachers from the school attended the public meeting.

Religious teacher Barry McDonnell acknowledged the Salesian order may not have the resources to keep the school running. Instead, he suggested that the school become part of the La Cheile trust.

This would keep the school open with the same uniform, rules, crest and ethos. The only change is it would transfer from the Salesian Order to the La Cheile trust.

At the meeting, it was also agreed that an opposition committee will be set up to the closure, comprising of parents of students in each year, as well as transition year pupils.

Meelick parent Gerry Nugent believes the trustees are in breach of the Education Act 1998, stating a parent and student has a right to a choice of school.

“That right has been taken away by the decision made by the trustees. I will be suggesting that the trustees resign because of their disgraceful behaviour,” he said.

Northside Labour councillor Tom Shortt, himself a secondary teacher, provoked anger from parents when he suggested the closure was a “done deal” and the changeover must be managed in an orderly fashion, not causing distress to students.