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Greensburg Central Catholic students, parents rally for principal

| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 12:05 a.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Students and supporters hold prayer service near Greensburg Central Catholic seeking reinstatement of Principal Denise Myers.

Parents of Greensburg Central Catholic students demanded answers on Friday for why their principal was put on administrative leave this week.

They were among about 150 adults and students who gathered for a prayer service in support of Principal Denise Myers.

Many of the students wore T-shirts with a cross, GCC and “Myers Strong” on them as they gathered along Armory Drive in Hempfield, near the schools.

“We're doing this because the diocese (of Greensburg) isn't giving us any answers,” said Lisa Astalos of Hempfield, the mother of a senior. “It seems we, the parents — who make the donations and pay the tuition — we're not getting any answers. It's upsetting.”

The diocese said Myers had been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation, in a statement released this week.

Myers did not respond to requests seeking comment.

In a statement released on Friday, Trent D. Bocan, superintendent of Catholic schools, said a team of administrators is supervising day-to-day operations.

“During this week, we have met personally with staff, student leaders, and parents and guardians,” it said. “I have been edified by the spirit of cooperation, collaboration and prayer taking place within our school walls. We are greatly appreciative of the work of our students, staff and administration, and we ask for our school community's continued patience and prayer as we attempt to bring resolution to these current, administrative matters. As our students have gathered in Mass and prayer this week, we recognize, above all, the importance of charity.”

He said a meeting will be held to resolve the undisclosed matter with Myers.

“At this time, I must inform you that the diocese has received a request from legal counsel, acting on behalf of the principal, to push back the date and extend the time for a meeting which will be an important factor toward further clarification of this serious situation. Honoring this request, and to reasonably ensure the rights of the principal, we have granted a one-week extension to this process,” Bocan said in the statement.

“The nature of this matter is serious; and, therefore, I ask our school community to respect the necessary legal process and the coinciding dimensions of confidentiality that are in place for legal and respectful purposes, and not, simply as silence or non-communication.”

The statement was released about two hours after the prayer session.

“I'm here to support Denise Myers,” said Karen Reese of Hempfield, whose son attends the high school. “I think she's a wonderful principal ... and has done a lot for our schools — academically, sports, in all areas.

“As parents, we haven't been given an explanation of what's going on,” she added.

A petition on the website Change.org bears nearly 400 signatures and asks several leaders in the Catholic Church to investigate the situation and leaders in the school and diocese.

Several parents said Myers began the school year as principal of both the senior and junior high schools. Previously, another person helped to oversee the junior high school, they said.

“I want to see the old school back and let the principal do her job as she sees fit,” said Unity resident Jennifer Scalise, mother of a junior high student.

Many parents said they learned about Myers' status through a text message.

Several parents and students declined to comment.

Organizers passed out 3-by-5 cards on which participants could express their feelings.

Myers has been working at Greensburg Central Catholic since 2001 and was named assistant principal in 2006.

In 2011, she became principal as officials announced plans to renovate an existing building and add a junior high to the academic offerings.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bstiles@tribweb.com.

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