Lucy Ozzi, a teacher at the St. Sylvester Catholic school on Staten Island for 12 years, was shocked and insulted by a letter she got last month from the schools superintendent for the New York Archdiocese.
It came just weeks after Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Schools Superintendent Timothy McNiff said they would close 27 financially troubled Catholic schools. That meant laying off more than 300 teachers, including the entire staff at St. Sylvester.
The shock was that the letter was addressed not to Ozzi, but to her daughter Michelle, 21. In it, McNiff congratulated Michelle, a product of the Catholic school system, for her upcoming graduation fromManhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology.
Then came the insult.
"If you have not decided on your plans for next year, I encourage you to consider teaching in one of our Catholic schools," he wrote, urging her to fill out a job application online or call his office directly.
Great! They want to lay off the mother and hire the daughter!
"My daughter has no teaching experience and is majoring in fashion merchandising," Ozzi said in disbelief. "I've got a master's degree and 12 years' teaching experience. And he wants to let me go to recruit her?"
Joseph Zwilling, Dolan's spokesman, confirmed that 1,700 letters were sent to "soon-to-be college graduates" as a way of "maintaining contact with our alumni" and "promoting Catholic education as a possible career path."
"We're trying to build a data base of teacher candidates ... for years to come."
His response doesn't satisfy Patricia Gabriel, president of the Federation of Catholic Teachers.
"They have a hiring freeze in our schools, and they are required by our union contract to offer priority for any vacancy to tenured teachers who are losing their jobs," Gabriel said. "So I can't comprehend why they would be recruiting anyone from the outside. It's hurtful."
Dolan and McNiff, Gabriel notes, have yet to thank the affected teachers for their many years of service. The archdiocese hasn't even offered them severance benefits.
McNiff has made a raft of enemies with his corporate management style in the less than three years since he took over the schools.
McNiff, who has a doctoral degree from Argosy University in Sarasota, Fla., a for-profit school that specializes in online education, is being paid $270,000 a year - more than city Schools Chancellor Cathie Black makes, system insiders say. Zwilling refused to say what his official salary is.
The schools chief has also embarked on major renovations of his administrative offices, while presiding over the firing or resignations of more than a dozen veteran central administrators.
Gabriel became so frustrated with the superintendent's stonewalling that last month she appealed directly to Dolan for a meeting.
Her members "feel cast off like collateral damage," she wrote.
"I understand the difficulty you are feeling each and every time you meet with a teacher whose school is scheduled to close," Dolan wrote in his March 7 response. But "faced with the current economic climate" and "declining enrollment ... it is necessary to make difficult decisions."
The teachers, he wrote, "always remain in our prayers," but he said nothing about a meeting.
A schools superintendent with a degree from a for-profit diploma mill?
And the values these religious men are displaying with the layoffs, the school closings, the firings at the central office even as they try and hire younger, cheaper teachers and remodel their own offices - it's positively Bloombergian.
So nice that they will keep the laid off teachers in their prayers, though.