Dear St. Matthew’s, You Owe Us An Explanation
In the cover of night on February 4, 2021, members of the St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church Governance board posted signs at the Early Learning Center entrances in Metairie, leaving them for parents and staff to discover in the light of day as they arrived to school ready to drop off their children.
The signs read:
“THE ELC IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED. Any funds paid for services not rendered will be refunded. We will begin processing refunds next week. Please contact us at STMATTSELC@GMAIL.COM. Times will be scheduled to retrieve your personal items.”
You see, the evening prior (on Thursday, February 4, 2021), the St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church Governance Board members voted unanimously to permanently close the Early Learning Center (ELC) effective immediately, in a closed door meeting that included no parents, staff or stakeholders from the ELC whatsoever.
Not a single leader or representative of the Church or board was present Friday morning at the ELC to offer explanations to stunned parents, children or staff, or to advise staff on the next steps regarding the termination of their employment.
These actions were cowardly at best and completely unchristian at worst.
Like every other parent whose children attended our beloved school, I work full time. I am an executive in a small business. I employ people, I manage their performance to our expectations, I sometimes make difficult decisions about the trajectory of our business and therefore our employee’s lives. I’ve terminated employees and I’ve laid off employees.
I could never imagine doing to another human being what the Church Governance Board CHOSE to do to the staff and employees of the ELC.
“Grievous,” I’ve thought. There MUST have been something immensely grievous, illegal, unholy, or unsafe going to warrant such extreme action. Surely if it was a single bad apple (or even a few), the right thing to do is to document the employment policy violations and terminate the employee swiftly, then step up to the plate to handle the repercussions.
The board says this is a result of “circumstances beyond our control,” and a “personnel related matter” and that it “must remain confidential.” We are expected to trust the statement of the Church pastor, Tim Barnes, when he says “this closure is not the result of any activity involving children who have attended the ELC, past or present.”
I am to trust the same faceless and nameless people who hide behind their position in a Church and cannot face the parents, aka their customers, who are effectively Church funders? I am to trust “leaders” who cannot even properly notify their employees of termination? I am to trust that my children were not subject or witness to something awful? I am to trust that these people have had the safety of my children at the forefront of their decision making all along? I am to trust that the nearly $50,000 of my hard earned money paid to the school & church over the last 4 years wasn’t being used for something it shouldn’t have?
It’s simply unacceptable. This nonexistent explanation doesn’t stand now that they’ve taken the action chosen, which was swift and extreme. Choosing the extreme can only mean logically there was an extreme circumstance.
And if that’s NOT the case, if there is indeed no grievous wrongdoing as you say and this is a “personnel related matter,” then they are COWARDS. They clearly do not know what leadership or Christianity is. They don’t know what it means to take ownership or responsibility.
To be clear, in my heart I do not believe there was anything serious going on that could have affected my children. We have only experienced a loving, positive environment and we’ve been loyal to the school because of the great care we’ve received.
My point is this: the extreme measures taken by the board leadership should only have been used for extreme circumstances. To the parents and staff, it appears these actions were completely unjustified and offering an explanation veiled in secrecy does nothing but create more questions and pour salt on a jagged wound.
My family, and the families directly affected by this will move on. They are counting on that. We will scramble to find new childcare, buoyed by the greater community who unanimously agrees that these actions were objectively awful.
I’ll find a way to explain to my 3 year old why she can no longer go to the school she loves, can no longer be with the teacher she adores, and the friends she’s bonded with as they’ve grown up together since infants. I’ll stay in touch with the teachers who’ve provided nothing but the best care, love and education for my children. I’ll write them letters of recommendation and hire them as babysitters. I’ll rethink my future plans to grow my family now that I no longer have the security of a safe and loving environment for my future infant.
But “moving on” doesn’t have to mean accepting injustice or allowing these supposed church leaders to continue to terrorize our community of God-loving people. I won’t lay down for this, and won’t allow this to happen to more families in my community.