Removal of a number of statues and other smaller Catholic icons from the campus of San Domenico School in San Anselmo has raised concerns among some parents.
In an email to the school’s board of directors, Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and the head of school, Shannon Fitzpatrick objected to the removal of the statues and other steps the school has taken in an effort to make the school more inclusive.
“Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs,” wrote Fitzpatrick, whose 8-year-old son attends the school.
She added, “In our time here, the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic.”
Responding to follow-up questions Monday, Fitzpatrick wrote, “There are other families having the same concerns I do. Many parents feel if the school is heading in a different direction then the San Domenico community should have been notified before the signing of the enrollment for the following year.”
Cheryl Newell, who had four children graduate from San Domenico, said, “I am extremely disappointed in the school and the direction they’ve been going. This isn’t a new thing that they’ve been intentionally eroding their Catholic heritage. They’re trying to be something for everyone and they’re making no one happy.”
Fox News adds:
Cecily Stock, who is head of the school, said most students are not Catholic.
“Over the last few years we’ve had fewer Catholic students as part of the community and a larger number of students of various faith traditions,” Stock said. “Right now about 80 percent of our families do not identify as Catholic.”
An official, who described the institution as California’s oldest independent school and first Catholic school, told Fox News a “large number of religious statues” were recently relocated to other parts of the school’s campus and some were donated to “appreciative recipients.”
“Our goal in this shift was in alignment with our strategic plan that was approved by our Board of Trustees and Dominican Sisters of San Rafael in June of 2016 and reflects our commitment to continuing a 167-year tradition of inclusive education,” Kimberly Pinkson, director of marketing and communications, told Fox News.
From the school’s mission statement:
Dedicated to being California’s leading independent school, serving Kindergarten through twelfth grade students of all faiths, San Domenico is committed to excellence in education, preparing the next generation of global leaders.
Founded in 1850 by the Dominican Sisters, San Domenico reflects our Dominican Catholic heritage which calls us to uphold the values of study, reflection, service and community.
In the Dominican tradition of Veritas (truth),
We inspire inquiry and provide a strong academic foundation for lifelong intellectual growth.
We explore and develop the unique gifts of each individual in mind, heart, body, and spirit.
We celebrate diversity, recognizing God’s presence in ourselves and in all of creation.
We recognize what it means to be human in a global community and respond with integrity to the needs and challenges of our time.
And there’s this:
In keeping with our core values, San Domenico is a community of belonging where students, staff, and families are dedicated to inclusion and respect for all. We welcome and embrace students, families, and staff who both enrich and promote diversity. We value the representation and full engagement of individuals whose differences include, but are not limited to, age, ethnicity, family makeup, gender, learning style, physical ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Further, we acknowledge and recognize that diversity is often a relative and complex idea to define and quantify. Beyond physical differences, San Domenico School also embraces diversity of thought, culture, philosophy, and all that may be unseen but also subject a person to preferential or disadvantageous treatment.
SD students and families represent a wide spectrum of cultures, identities, and backgrounds, all of which make our community stronger and richer. We believe that diversity makes our students, faculty, and community members smarter, wiser, and better able to fulfill our vision of graduating students who go forth to shape a better world.
As we seek to strengthen a spirit of inquiry and study, we know we can only accomplish this with a deep commitment to continually working to increase inclusivity and diversity on our campus. Among our faculty and staff, we seek out opportunities and channels to increase community awareness of, and support for, diversity and respect among all beings. For example, by working with organizations such as A Better Chance, The SMART Program/Breakthrough Collaborative, Next Generation Scholars, Summerbridge, and Aim High, our admissions team is able to create a more diverse student and parent body, who then enrich community life by sharing their backgrounds and cultures with our School constituents. Our religious studies, ethics, and service learning curriculum encourage systems thinking and an understanding of our global interconnectedness and the ensuing need for social justice, and a constant striving for peace and equity.
It may be worth noting that the school, while Dominican in its charism and its roots, doesn’t appear to self-identify any longer as a “Catholic” school. It also takes great pains throughout its website to underscore its inclusiveness, noting, in several places: “San Domenico School does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, and national and/or ethnic origin, age, gender, sexual orientation/identity, disability, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law, in administration of educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid programs, athletics, or any other school-administered programs.”
At this point, it is effectively a private school with a Catholic name, and that’s about it.
Also: officials at the school made clear this has nothing to do with current events:
Amy Skewes-Cox, who heads San Domenico School’s board of trustees, said it was unfortunate the removal of the statues occurred at about the same time as the unrest in Charlottesville over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and that the issues are “totally different” and have “absolutely no connection other than it is change, and people have a hard time with change.”
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