Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

California's Oldest Catholic School Drops Affiliation

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

California's Oldest Catholic School Drops Affiliation

Article excerpt

The oldest Catholic school in California has dropped its official affiliation with the Catholic Church.

Officials at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, California, founded in 1850 by the Dominican Sisters, announced Nov. 13 that the school will no longer be Catholic and will drop official ties to the San Francisco Archdiocese and the Western Catholic Educational Association.

At the same time, however, their statement pledged that the school "has, and will continue to honor its Catholic and Dominican heritage. The Dominican Sisters and San Domenico School are deeply committed to remaining in relationship with one another and to the mission of the School."

The Western Catholic Educational Association (WCEA) is, according to its website, "a private educational accrediting agency established under the auspices of the Bishops of the Catholic (Arch) Dioceses of California."

In the statement sent out to the K-12 school's community, Sr. Maureen Mc-Inerney, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, and Cecily Stock, head of school, wrote: "This change in accreditation will not impact the current programming at San Domenico and the inclusive spiritual education will continue. The School's Mission, location, ownership, and other accreditations remain unchanged and the School's financial health remains in solid condition."

The Dominican Sisters' announcement said the decision followed "several months" of prayer, reflection, study and consultation by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael leadership team.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, Stock said the Western Catholic Educational Association's standards "were being more rigorously enforced, and do not align with the school's longstanding mission to embrace diversity and inclusion of all faiths and backgrounds."

Melanie Morey, head of the San Francisco Archdiocese's Office of Catholic Identity Assessment, told NCR that she and the archdiocesan superintendent of schools had been "in conversation with the prioress general and that "the school was facing its first accreditation visit that included WCEA Catholic Identity standards."

"Sr. Maureen realized that the school was deficient in most of the standards," said Morey, who is also a commissioner for the association.

In an email, McInerney told NCR that she met with Morey and Pam Lyons, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, on Aug. 30. "I told them that San Domenico was currently accredited by WCEA until 2019," Mclnerney wrote. "When they asked if I thought San Domenico would be able to meet the WCEA standards for re-accreditation, I said I did not think San Domenico would because we knew the standards were going to be more rigorously enforced."

According to a school official, San Domenico received an email Sept. 9 stating that its accreditations had been "extended to June 30, 2020."

"For many years, the spirit in which San Domenico carried out these standards was sufficient for WCEA accreditation. Under current interpretation, that is no longer the case," said a statement on the school website.

The statement cited "WCEA standards which require: 'the permeation of Catholic values in all aspects of school life,' 'a Religion curriculum instruction that is faithful to Roman Catholic Church teachings and meets the requirements set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB),' and 'all school personnel are actively engaged in bringing the Good News of Jesus into the total educational experience. …

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