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Open letter from ACE alumni to ND ACE academies

| Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Editor’s Note: The following introductory paragraph, written by the undersigned, was added to the original letter, which was dated March 3, 2017. The current form of the letter, including the introduction, was submitted to The Observer on Monday.

The original version of the following letter was sent to the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) staff Friday, March 3, 2017, the date of President Donald Trump’s visit to St. Andrew Catholic School. Shortly thereafter, ACE posted an announcement on their website about President Trump’s visit. On Monday, shortly after we heard this letter was going to print in The Observer, we received notice that ACE had posted a follow-up reflection on their website. These announcements have not been directly shared by ACE with ACE alumni via their social media or their email listserv. We wanted to acknowledge these announcements, though, and also wanted to update the list of signers. Therefore, this letter is now dated March 5, 2017. While these announcements do address the visit, we do not believe that they address all of our stated concerns, nor have they been adequately shared with the ACE community. The text of this letter was slightly condensed to meet the requirements for printing in The Observer.

Dear Leadership of the Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education Academies,

We, the undersigned alumni of the Alliance for Catholic Education, write to express our concerns about President Trump’s visit to St. Andrew Catholic School, a Notre Dame ACE Academy, in Orlando, Florida on Friday, March 3, 2017. We also write to offer our prayers for the St. Andrew school leadership, community and particularly the students in this time of unexpected attention.

This visit is an important symbolic moment that should be addressed by advocates of Catholic education. St. John XXIII encouraged unity in essentials, liberty in doubtful matters and charity throughout. We believe the essential unifying principle of serving the least among us is affronted by much of President Trump’s policy and rhetoric. The visit, regardless of its genesis, could be taken as tacit approval within the broader Catholic education community for these policies, including the scapegoating of immigrants, refugees and the economically marginalized in service of a nationalist stance and the targeting of Muslims as enemies of Christianity. Catholic schools have heroically served what Pope Francis has called the bruised, hurting and dirty Church. We fear this visit will associate Catholic schools with policies that violently conflict with their Gospel mission, and therefore ask ACE make a statement affirming our bedrock shared values. Protection of the least of these is the responsibility of us all, and especially those with the platforms to be heard.

Our first concern is that this visit has been designed to use the children and school community of St. Andrew as props by an administration that opposes core aspects of their identity. The primary focus of a visit to a Catholic school should be celebrating the mission of that school. Of course, politicians often use community organizations to advance their agendas. Further, past presidents of both party affiliations have visited Catholic schools to celebrate their identity and academic achievement. However, given the incompatibility of President Trump’s agenda with Catholic schools’ mission, we are concerned that this visit takes advantage of Catholic schools, students, families and communities without humanizing or benefiting them. President Trump did not visit a Catholic school during the recent Catholic Schools Week (though he did tweet about it). Why should his first visit to a Catholic school serve to benefit him and his agenda?

Our second concern is this visit could be taken as tacit support of policies that run counter to the mission of Catholic education and attack the very dignity of those served by Catholic schools. As current and former classroom educators, we know for many teachers, children and their families, President Trump’s campaign and administration have placed new stress upon the most vulnerable among us. For those of us in classrooms, we are facing challenging conversations about what the future holds for the children, youth and families we serve. As all those touched by ACE are well aware, many children in Catholic schools are already hard-pressed to maintain focus on their day-to-day learning given the challenges they face due to their race, class, language or country of origin outside of school. We know the St. Andrew community has worked tirelessly for decades to serve marginalized communities in Orlando. But this visit has not been designed to celebrate that fact; instead, it provides a platform for President Trump to showcase his marginalizing policies.

As alumni formed by ACE’s programs to serve Catholic schools with passion and dedication, we ask ACE to use its influence to defend the mission, identity and dignity of our schools and children. We hope the school leadership of St. Andrew, as well as the leadership of ACE Academies, recognize the problematic nature of this visit and how it aims to serve President Trump’s political interests, instead of the St. Andrew students and community. Further, we believe it is our duty as supporters of Catholic education to state our concern for this visit. We believe this visit conflicts with the mission of Catholic education to love and educate all children, since President Trump has so emphatically spoken out against immigrants, refugees and Muslims, our brothers and sisters in Christ who we are called to welcome with open arms into Catholic schools. We urge the leadership of the Notre Dame ACE Academies to address the inherent issues of this visit; to recognize that President Trump’s visit only serves himself and his agenda; and to make a statement in support of the students and communities served by these schools but marginalized by President Trump’s policies.

Megan Adzima (13)

Steve Alagna (18)

Eric Amato (8)

Ruby Amezquita (19)

Laura Andrews (17)

Maureen Davis Angilletta (16)

Elizabeth Anton (20)

Brendan Apfeld (17)

Sean Arthurs (1)

Kyle J. Baker, nSJ (14)

Adam Barajas (18)

Alan Bauer (15)

Michael Berino (19)

Anne Bernat (15)

Alissa Blair (9)

Sarah Boeding (16)

Matthew Bohnenkamp (9)

Jeff Bowlby (20)

Molly Boyle (19)

Lizabeth Bradshaw (1)

Kevin Braun (14)

Rachel (Sehgal) Bravo (15)

Stephen Brennen (16)

Carolyn Gibbs Broughton (13)

Cassie Brownell (15)

Marissa Bulger (16)

Kevin Burke (9)

Zach Burrus (15)

Kathryn Guida Calhoun (16)

Caitlin Cameron (15)

Kevin Casey (20)

Francisco Castillo-Fierro (15)

Ryan Clavelle (16)

Claire Collins (21)

Kelsie Corriston (21)

Julianne Corrotto (18)

Jim Cummings (9)

Kevin De La Montaigne (19)

Ben DeMarais (20)

Sarah DeMarais (17)

Christopher Dittrick (16)

Charleen Vinalon Doan (12)

Ellen Donahue (17)

Alissa Donovan (15)

Erin Duffy-Burke (10)

Dominic Fanelli (18)

Mark Farrell (3)

Anne Marie Fayen (13)

Erin Flanagan (11)

Tom Flanagan (10)

Betsy Fountain (16)

John Fournie (13)

Isabel Fraga (17)

Ashley Gabriel (RLP 10)

Sean Gaffney (16)

Ryan Gallagher (20)

David Garcia (16)

Karla Garcia-Huerta (18)

Michelle Garvey (13)

Connor Geraghty (20)

Danielle Gonzales (8)

Jessica Gray Werner (8)

Nicholas Green (12, RLP 9)

Amy Kalmar Grondin (18)

Seth Thomas Gurgel (9)

Yesenia Guzman (20)

Anne Hainley (10)

Lauren Hamilton (20)

Laura Hamman (14, ChACE 9, ENL 4)

Erin Hankins Diaz (15)

Catherine Connell Heaps (13)

Alex Hermanny (13)

Savannah Hobbs (20)

Maggie Remstad Hook (8, ChACE 3)

Julia Hudac (15)

Elizabeth Hughes (7)

Caitlin Ivester (16)

Meghan Farrell Kelley (7)

Mike Kennedy (20)

Jeff Kerscher (15)

George Klupchak (15)

Kelsey Klupchak (15)

Maureen Shields Kurz (13)

John Kyler (18)

Scott Jarvie (18)

Elizabeth Jen (20)

Brian Jerger (20)

Matthew Jewell (21)

Brynn Johnson (14)

Krystal C. Johnson (17)

Michela (Costello) Lakkala (8)

Katie (Sutliff) Lang (3)

Taryn Lewis (15)

Analise Lipari (16)

Rebekah Madrid (8)

Leah Malm (20)

Victoria McBride (18)

Russell McFall (20)

Brendan McKiernan (14)

Kathryn Helm McKiernan (15)

Michael McLane (19)

Mary Beth McLean (20, ENL 15)

Andrew Miller (16)

Edel Mooney (19)

Patrick Mooney (15)

Bridget Farrell Moorehead (3)

Ben Mueller (16)

Kathryn (Kat) Steinlage Muller (7)

Maximilian Napier (20)

Norma Nelson (10)

Patrick O’Brien (15)

Flannery O’Connor (13)

Michael O’Connor (15)

Megan O’Hara (15)

Diane Ottaviani (7)

Matt Panzer (9)

Ellen Patterson (1)

Brian M. Pawloski (9)

Matthew Pendergast (20)

Geoff Perks (20)

Eric Pernotto (10)

Dr. Joshua D. Prenosil (11)

Mary Elizabeth Pullano (20)

Dan Reynolds (13)

Drew Reynolds (16)

Laura Reynolds (13)

Susan Reynolds (16)

Laura Roberts (15)

Chris Rodenbaugh (18)

Jamie Rodriguez (9)

Paul Rodriguez (10)

Valerie Garcia-Ramirez Rojas (15)

Tiffany Roman (9)

Phillip Rovnak (15)

Elizabeth Sabrio (14)

Abigail Salazar (16)

Rachel Santay (16, ChACE 11)

Kathleen Schenkel (18)

Kasie Farrell Scully (13)

Katie Scully (15)

Megan Scully (17)

Michael Scully (13)

Jackie Sias (15)

Kelly Skony (9)

Luke Skony (10)

Elizabeth Slamkowski (19)

John Steffan (7)

Elise Suer (15)

Anton Taruc (18)

Julie Tilghman (5)

Keaton Van Beveren (18)

Mary Veith (16)

Alessandra Ward-Goldberg (17)

Michael Wagner (18)

Kaitlyn Wegrzyn (20)

Patrick Welch (14)

Michael J. Werner (8)

Lindsey (Durbin) Whetzel (9)

Elizabeth Winking (14)

Kyle Winking (14)

Aislinn Wyatt (15)

Rev. Paul Ybarra, CSC (9)

Andrew Zeiser (15)

March 5

Editor’s Note: The numbers in parentheses beside each name corresponds to the ACE Teaching Fellows cohort number to which each person belongs.


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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