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Wanted: Public relations director, St. Bernard School, Uncasville, CT.
Job description: Write press releases. Spike ill-advised press releases. Extinguish fires. Remind superiors that vindictiveness isn't part of the Christian doctrine.
What, you think this is a joke? Not really. Not in the wake of headmaster Thomas Doherty's recent missive, following the CIAC's decision on an eligibility matter.
The CIAC rejected St. Bernard's official complaint that three former students transferred to Fitch for "athletic reasons," which would have denied the students in question a chance to play sports through this school year.
Sayeth Mr. Doherty: "I applaud the (CIAC's) process and their careful consideration of the situation. I have always maintained that the students should not be punished for the actions of their parents and I am glad to see that the CIAC has decided accordingly. St. Bernard wishes these young men continued success throughout the year and beyond."
Shall we examine Mr. Doherty's proclamation?
The CIAC made the right call by ruling against us because students should not be punished for the actions of their parents … but we went after the kids anyway.
And to think all those days of Sunday School, I missed the day they taught us about pettiness. I always thought it went, "blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness," not for the sake of righteous indignation.
This is where a functional public relations person could have approached Mr. Doherty — or perhaps genuflected before the spinmeisters at the Norwich Diocese — and said, "in light of recent public relations nightmares here, isn't the most prudent action to say nothing at all?"
Fitch officials opted not to comment, and they were on the receiving end of the CIAC's favorable ruling.
I get why St. Bernard tried to imperil the high school athletic seasons of three former students: to discourage others at school from leaving. St. Bernard is trying to protect itself from an exodus engendered by its own incompetence. But why exacerbate the act with such an ill-advised, venomous piece of sour grapes?
It's become clearer than a bottle of Poland Spring that St. Bernard's reputation in our corner of the world has never been worse. Never. Forget the way it dismissed Bill Buscetto and now Scott Cook. That's the appetizer to the entrée. Just look at the disdain its leadership showed all the parents and alumni who supported Buscetto. The disdain for parents of baseball players last year who had concerns over the lack of adult supervision between school dismissal and baseball practice.
Read that word again: disdain.
Why would you ever treat people who have to write $11,000 tuition checks that way?
Why would you ever dismiss alumni whose loyalty to the school went all the way to their souls?
We can agree or disagree with the Xs and Os of each case. But what remains steadfast is a sturdy, steady erosion of the hearts and minds of the people who once made St. Bernard great. A headmaster who thinks with his mouth and a diocese that's bigger on rhetoric and letters to the editor than any hint of substantive dialogue.
Do school and diocesan leaders have any idea what they've done? They've systematically alienated an alarming number of advocates whose passion for St. Bernard once ran like a current through their veins. And then this is what happens: Prominent people in the community who are identified with St. Bernard start to state publicly how the school they once loved has broken their hearts.
Do you think that's going to encourage people to keep spending $11,000 per year?
I'm sure the letter writing campaigns will be underway quite soon, telling Day readers St. Bernard is a fine, upstanding place. Maybe they'll turn overtures, according to several sources, into luring Jack Cochran to coach football there into reality.
But let me just say this: If St. Bernard continues to treat people who matter with such disdain, you can start the clock on the school's long fade into irrelevance.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.