A New York State judge has approved a plan by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island to retain control of and reopen a school it closed last year, rejecting an attempt by a group of parents, alumni, and teachers to take it over.
In an oral opinion last week, New York State Supreme Court Judge John S. Lockman found “viable and appropriate’’ the plan to make the once-exclusive school, the Cathedral School of St. Mary and St. Paul in Garden City, financially feasible, said Donald MacLeod, a member of the board of directors of the Cathedral Corporation, which oversees the school and its property.
“They basically lost a hostile takeover,’' John H. Works, chief legal adviser to the diocese, said of the parent-alumni group. “They tried to basically take the school away from the diocese, and the judge said no.’'
But a lawyer for the group, St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s Inc., was skeptical that the school would open as planned in September 1993.
“We felt we demolished their plan and showed it was nonviable,’' said James P. Nunemaker.
“On the law, we are surprised at the outcome,’' he said, adding that the group would not appeal the ruling.
The Cathedral Corporation, an affiliate of the Episcopal Diocese, plans to reopen the K-12, 200-student school--which was $5 million in debt--as a 46-student middle school, Mr. Works said.
The new school, which could expand later to high-school grades, will use the St. Mary buildings on one of the old school’s two campuses. Officials plan to finance the new venture by leasing--perhaps for as much as $1 million a year--part or all of the larger St. Paul campus nearby, Mr. Works said.
But Mr. Nunemaker said the diocese would not have enough money or students to be successful and could face significant community opposition depending on the leased campus’s new use.
Last week’s decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the state Attorney General--in which the parent-alumni group participated--to compel Cathedral Corporation to keep the school open. By closing it without court approval, Cathedral Corporation was seen as violating the terms under which the school and its land were donated to the diocese in 1885, lawyers for both sides said.
But a ruling other than the one rendered would have been chilling for religious schools, Mr. Works said.
“It would’ve been unprecedented when the property goes to a religious organization to take it away and give it to a nonreligious organization,’' Mr. Works said.
A version of this article appeared in the April 08, 1992 edition of Education Week as Plan To Reopen Episcopal School in N.Y. Approved