Beth Fertig is the contributing editor for education, covering the New York City public school system for WNYC on air and online at SchoolBook.org. She has covered education in the city for more than 15 years. Beth is the author of Why cant u teach me 2 read? Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test (FSG Books) which grew out of a radio series on the low graduation rate for special education students. Follow her @bethfertig.
Catholic Principal Fired After Inquiry into Writings About Race
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
A Bronx Catholic school principal has been removed, following an internal review into controversial opinions he expressed about race and multiculturalism.
Frank Borzellieri served as principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School beginning in 2009. This past weekend, The Daily News published an article about books and columns in which he described the superiority of Western culture, criticized immigration, and called diversity a "weakness."
The church's pastor, Father Eric Rapaglia, issued a statement on his website apologizing for what he called his "mistake in judgment." He said that in hindsight, he should not have hired the principal. He also said he didn't know about Borzellieri's writings when he was hired in 2009, after working in two other Catholic schools without any complaint, and that he was screened by a diverse search committee. The pastor stated that he disagrees with Borzelleiri's views on immigration and race, and called racism "a sin."
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said the decision to terminate Borzellieri was made by the pastor on Monday night. This followed a meeting with him and the Superintendent of Schools last week after The Daily News began making inquiries about Borzellieri. Zwilling said many the principal's positions were found to be "incompatible with the philosophy and practices" of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and other Catholic schools. He singled out, "particularly his views on immigration, his views on the ability of minorities to learn."
Zwilling also said the Catholic schools pride themselves on serving a diverse student background and that Borzellieri's writings indicate he "did not truly support that mission." Our Lady of Mount Carmel's student population is overwhelmingly black and Latino.
Borzellieri was originally hired by a Catholic school in New Rochelle where he served for one year. He then taught at St. Barnabas in the Bronx, where he served two years, before being hired as principal by Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Zwilling said there will not be any investigation into Father Rapaglia's hiring decision, but that the Archdiocese has since changed its training program for teachers interested in becoming principals to ensure they're highly qualified.
During the 1990s, Borzellieri was a member of Community School Board 24 in Queens where he was an outspoken opponent of bringing a multicultural curriculum into the city's public schools. He also tried to get an openly gay teacher fired. He's written several books including "The Unspoken Truth: Race, Culture and Other Taboos," and was a contributor to American Renaissance, which describes itself as being devoted to "racial realism" on various topics including crime and intelligence.
Jared Taylor, the magazine's editor, said in a statement to WNYC that "the last time Frank Borzellieri wrote for my magazine was in 2006."
Taylor also said, "I understand that there has never been a single complaint of 'prejudice' against him, and that he is an exemplary employee of the diocese. He is being fired for private opinions expressed years ago. This is a despicable repudiation of free speech rights."
Borzellieri has not responded to a request for comment.
Below is the full statement of Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York
Mr. Frank Borzellieri has been relieved of his position as principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School. This decision was reached following a thorough internal review of his opinions and beliefs as expressed in his books and columns, and a discussion with Mr. Borzellieri himself.
The decision was reached by Father Eric Rapaglia, pastor of the parish, in consultation with the Office of the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese. Many of the opinions expressed by Mr. Borzellieri in his writings were found to be incompatible with the philosophy and practices of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, and with Catholic schools throughout the Archdiocese.
The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese pride themselves on serving a diverse student population, without regard to a student's religion, race, or background. Our schools have a proven track record of success of welcoming all students who come to us, and providing them with a superior education that allows them to succeed in college and beyond. Unfortunately, Mr. Borzellieri's writings indicate that he did not truly support that mission.
The Superintendent of Schools office will assist the parish in hiring a new, well-qualified principal who will be able to lead Our Lady of Mount Carmel into the new academic year. Over the past two years, the Archdiocese has developed a training program for teachers interested in serving as principals in our parish schools. The Archdiocese interviews and identifies qualified candidates, and has a roster of candidates from which a parish and its search committee can select the best-qualified candidate to serve as principal in their school.