LEWISTON - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland on Monday heard the appeal of at least one of seven teachers recently fired from Trinity Catholic School.
As the meeting went on behind closed doors in Portland, about a half-dozen of the teacher's friends and relatives protested outside, urging the diocese to reconsider her dismissal.
Citing confidential personnel issues, Catholic Schools Superintendent Sister Rosemary Donohue declined to comment on the hearing, the details surrounding the firings or how many teachers have appealed their dismissals. She said she was "looking broadly" at the situation and would come to a decision within the next two weeks.
"It has not been easy for anyone involved," she said.
Pandora Lawler, who taught at Trinity and its predecessor, St. Joseph's School, for 34 years, confirmed Monday that she met with diocesan officials to appeal her firing. She declined to comment further untilDonohue makes her ruling.
Seven teachers, including Lawler, were recently fired from Trinity, a pre-kindergarten through grade eight Catholic school with an elementary campus on Baird Avenue and a junior high school on Main Street in Lewiston. Administrators have said the teachers were let go because enrollment has been declining and the school couldn't afford to keep them.
But many parents, students and alumni didn't believe Trinity had to fire teachers, and they questioned why the school chose to dismiss those particular teachers, some of whom have decades of experience. Fifty to 70 people protested the firings at a school board meeting two weeks ago. Soon after, parents, students and alumni started a letter-writing campaign, asking the diocese to reconsider the decision.
On Monday, Donohue said she had received letters and e-mails about the Trinity situation and she is responding to each. She said she was involved in the decision to fire the teachers, but she declined to say why they were dismissed.
"That is part of the confidentiality," she said. "It would be most inappropriate for me to (say)."
But, she added, "None of this was done easily or on the spur of the moment. Each decision was weighed very carefully and made only after serious consideration."
Trinity was formed in the fall of 2006 with the merger of three Catholic schools: Holy Cross and St. Joseph's in Lewiston and St. Peter and Sacred Heart Elementary in Auburn. Trinity opened with about 600 students; it now has 477.
The school's Web site listed 38 teachers for this past school year, including those for art, music and computer. The seven fired teachers represent 18 percent of the school's teaching staff.