The students of Holy Names High School only had a few hours between the moment they received the upsetting email Tuesday night and the time the administration shut down their email system in which to coordinate the logistics of the protest. The email that spurred the walk out was from their athletic director and teacher, Sarah LeMier. It contained a recording of LeMier’s meeting with the school’s Principal and Assistant Principal, in which LeMier is scolded for her style of unprofessionalism and responds by indicting the administration of “running the mission of the school into the ground.” Though Principal Curran repeatedly asks LeMier not to “soap box,” the recording ends with LeMier tearfully remonstrating the administrators’ “ego” and “lack of respect for the students.”

IMG_8404According to Senior, Maya Bello, this spat is just another example of the administration’s “offensive treatment” of students and teachers in an ongoing series of unappeased complaints. On the 18th, after receiving the recording, the students composed a list of demands over iChat. “We got [the list of demands] out to all of the seniors and juniors right before they shut down the email system,” said Coots, the principle author of the list, “and [the next morning, on Wednesday, the 19th] sixty percent of the student body walked out.” They returned to school on Thursday.

The list, complete with explanations and examples can be found below, but the demands center around a lack of transparency in budgeting decisions. Specifically, the new administration (both the Principal and Assistant Principal were hired last year) has cut honors classes, electives and student affairs programming in order to invest in more robust tech programming and what many of the students are complaining is an outsized, 17-person, non-faculty staff responsible for marketing and other non-academic administration. The suspicion held by many of the students is that the tech program will make HN competitive with other private schools with wealthier demographics, like Bentley, at the expense of a fully-supported teaching faculty.

“They’ve been abusing the teachers and we can feel it as students,” said Coots, “so we have the support of a lot of teachers for what we’re doing out here.”

The walk out lasted all day, despite several attempts to lock students in the building, then out of the building and several announcements that there would be disciplinary sanctions. The choir girls steadily practiced their hymns in elaborate harmony to one side of the courtyard. When asked what the school’s mission was– the mission that the students claim has been “corrupted” by the new administration– almost all the girls stood up, gathered together and recited the mission in unison.

“There’s no trust or good will any more on the campus,” said senior Eva Harmon. “In the last year the atmosphere and the student social affairs and the academic integrity have all declined.” The students went on to list examples of various student-led projects like a Black History Month assembly, or a guest speaker event organized by the Jewish Student Group that were thwarted by the administration’s neglect or, in some cases, deliberate obstruction.

“We’ve complained about these things before and we’ve had talking groups with the administration but nothing ever changes. That’s why this time we’re calling for the removal of the assistant principal,” said Harmon.

Assistant Principal Kirkbride did not return phone calls or emails asking for comment but the school released an official statement in which they said “It is heartening to see within our Holy Names young women a passion and dedication for their school, their teachers, their peers, and their education.” Adding, “…all budget and school decisions are made with the best interest of our students in mind to provide them with a challenging college preparatory education exercising wise stewardship of material and human resources.” They did not respond to any of the specific demands made by the students.

Since the walk out on Tuesday, LeMier has been notified that she will be suspended for the rest of the year for her role in the student dissent. There will be a meeting at 5:30 on Friday, March 21st where students, parents and administrators will discuss grievances and ways to move forward.

To: Colleen Curran and Rachel Kirkbride
From: Holy Names Student Body
Holy Names High School Student Body Walkout List of Demands
March 19, 2014

  We, the students of Holy Names are orchestrating a walkout as a form of protest against the injustices committed by Administration. Below, we have listed our demands and some of the examples of the very injustices we are protesting against.

 1. Stop making arbitrary and unnecessary changes without parent, student, or staff input. Holy Names administrators have not been involving students, parents, or staff in the absurd, unnecessary and arbitrary changes that they have implemented. These changes have significantly and directly affected student academic achievement as well as the quality of the learning environment.

 2. Stop the harassment of teachers. We demand that Holy Names administrators stop harassing our teachers. For this entire year, it has been evident that our teachers have been very stressed and disturbed because they have constantly been harassed and threatened by Holy Names administrators. Their stress has without a doubt affected the overall classroom environment and consequently, our academic achievement. We demand that administration stop retaliating against those brave and caring teachers who have voiced their opinions and opposition to the aforementioned absurd and arbitrary changes that Holy Names administrators have implemented without student, parent, or staff involvement.

 3. Continue to offer Honors Classes next year. It is explicitly written in our school mission statement that Holy Names High School should provide an academically challenging college-preparatory education. In order to ensure the fulfillment of the school’s mission, Holy Names must continue offering honors courses. We demand that administrators observe, uphold, respect, and honor the mission and core values that the sisters of the Holy Names established.

 4. Listen to the students. We, the students, demand and deserve to be respected. We demand that our voices be heard through our student leaders. Holy Names administrators have consistently shut down our student leaders and have refused to recognize that students should be involved in any changes that might affect our education or our learning environment.

5. Stop violating our privacy. We are aware that administration regularly monitors student and teacher email accounts. Very recently, in fact, administration tried to deter student and teacher communication in disabling all student and teacher email accounts. This is an egregious violation of our privacy and we demand that administration stop doing this immediately.

6. Hire a new assistant principal. We demand that administration hire a new assistant principal that has a degree in education or administration, or who is otherwise qualified for the position. We demand someone who has a better understanding of student academic needs, better communication skills, and above all, someone who has the students’ best interests in mind.

7. Zero retaliation against or punishment of students for exercising our civil right to protest. We demand that there be no retaliation in any form from Holy Names administrators against the students involved in this walkout, or the staff, as a result of this protest. As citizens of this country we have been granted the right to peacefully demonstrate and protest in order to make our voices heard. Not only are we are observing our civil right to protest, but we are upholding the values in our school’s mission statement.

Holy Names High School, a small Catholic school for young women, provides an academically challenging, college preparatory education, in a vibrant learning environment. Our diverse community nurtures spirituality, and promotes justice, preparing our next generation for leadership and service.

 We demand that administration meet with the entire Holy Names community (students, parents and staff) in order to resolve these issues.

31 Responses

  1. avry todd

    Students of Holy Names: You’re inspiring. Way to hold your educators responsible for your education!

    Holy Names Administration: This is how you support your staff? LeMier is to be commended for galvanizing civic action in our youth and empowering our students. Instead, LeMier is being punished by an irreverent administration that refuses to engage in Socratic discourse with the youth, the staff, and the greater community about questionable financial decisions that impact academic opportunities. Suspending a teacher for inciting collective action in our youth is straight up draconian. As a future parent, I assure you that I’ll be looking elsewhere when considering where optimal educational opportunities lie for my children.

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  2. Parent of Holy Names Student

    As an alumni and current parent of a HNHS student I am extremely proud of the Students for peacefully demonstrating and standing up for their teacher. Ms. LeMier taught my Daughter, so I have first hand knowledge of her skills and ability to communicate with the students. My daugher and I have noticed the changes that have been made since last years Director of Technology was made Assistant Principal. I was shocked that many of the changes were made without parent or student involvement. This is not the same school I attended, and hopefully the administration will realize that techology is crucial, but academic excellence should not be compromised. This is a College Prep school, and I want it to remain that way so our Daughters can be bright, and competitive leaders.

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  3. Marco

    What strikes me as odd is the uproar caused by what appears to be a recording full of nothing!! According to the “proud parent” of an HNHS student, you feel that the student’s dissent and disruption of school is commendable. What you fail to acknowledge is that their contempt for the school rules disrupted the ENTIRE school and ALL of its students. And the basis of this disruption is their support of the athletic director because of her popular status with the students. It is apparent that the athletic director, Sarah Lemier, used the students as pawns for her own selfish reason…..to bail her out of her administrative discipline. And all the while, you parents support this dissent from students who clearly do not fully understand what is going on. It is offensive that Lemeir surreptitiously recorded this conversation and then made it public via email knowing full well what the repercussions would be. She should be fired for causing this disturbance and the parents should use better discretion in who they support in these academic matters. They should also be leery of encouraging their children to protest and dissent in such a manner lest they do the same to them. That is the perfect way to raise a child……if you want to raise a child that refuses to follow the rules.

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  4. Josh

    Go Holy Names students! You have a right to have a say in your own education!

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  5. maiki

    To clarify, the school shut down the email service they provide to students, in order to prevent the students from coordinating a protest?

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  6. an hnhs alum

    Pawns? Are you kidding me? Did you EVEN listen to the recording? This incident was the last straw for a lot of students.
    She is loved by the school community, and she loves the girls back enough to stand up for them. She knows their struggle because she’s been at the school 3 years under-payed and overworked. I know she cares because I’ve had her as a teacher and an athletic coordinator. Her dedication is amazing.
    It’s because of people as discouraging as you no one ever sparks change. I COMMEND these young women fighting for their education despite scare tactics.
    Some kids play hooky, some kids are never even at school because their school is not challenging enough. These girls want what they’re paying for. So I say give ‘em hell ladies!

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  7. Rich

    Great job by these students, they are standing up for themselves and their teachers. I like the idealism of these young kids. Thier complaints seems totally justified to me, looks like they have a 1950’s era top down management team running the college now, you can’t manage a school like this anymore. The fact that the administration is making all these changes without getting input from students and staff indicates to me you’ve got people in charge at this school that don’t know what they are doing. Period.
    This whole management team, principal and assistant principal should be fired ASAP. The fact that you have angry students boycotting classes is a clear indication the management team has lost the total support of students and faculty, pink slips are in order, no question,

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  8. HNHS c/o '91

    HNHS Students,
    My Facebook newsfeed is abuzz with this news. Please know how many decades of us alums are behind you and are so proud of the tradition of bright and bold women you are upholding! Stand up and be heard…

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  9. Ramey Marshall

    Get it together HNHS administration! “Holy Names High School, a small Catholic school for young women, provides an academically challenging college preparatory education in a vibrant learning environment. Our diverse community nurtures spirituality, encourages artistic expression, and promotes justice, preparing the next generation for leadership and service.”

    I am so glad to see that the ladies who attend HNHS understand the meaning of their mission, however it is very sad and concerning that the administration does not act accordingly. I know Sister Sally Slingstad personally and I know she would not stand for the administration taking away educational opportunities like this. In their letter they didn’t even address the demands of the students, which I find disrespectful and disappointing. These administrators need to know that without their STUDENTS they have NO job.

    – A proud alumni c/o 2002

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  10. HNHS c/o 2000

    As another HNHS alumna, I am very proud of how the students and faculty are fighting to keep the traditions and values of Holy Names alive. I am appalled at what the current administration has done- cut honors courses and electives? At a college prep school? Are you freaking kidding me? It also appears that there is a serious disconnect in communication between the administration and the rest of the faculty/student body. Yes, every principal/vice principal has their own way of running things, but if you are a new comer and want to be respected, you need to respect the people and the values of the community of which you’ve become a member. When both teachers and students feel that the only way to start a dialogue with the administration is to stage a walk out/protest, that is a reflection on the administration, not the protesters. I only hope the administration takes this as a teachable moment in how to improve their style of management. If I were still a student, I’d be marching right along side my fellow monarchs. Keep up the fight, ladies!

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  11. HNHS c/o 2000

    Is the recording available? I’m curious to hear what was on it.

    Reply
  12. HNHS alum c/o 2008

    The actions on the administration’s part is upsetting and right now am embarassed to say I attended HNHS. However, I am proud of the current Monarchs for taking a stand against the injustice they have experienced. Even though administrators may be at the top of the hierarchy, they still need to listen to the remaining 75% of the voices that are students, parents, and teachers. Not only do students, parents, and teachers have a right to be heard, but a school cannot function properly without these stakeholders.

    Although I do not know Sarah LeMier personally, from what I have read, I agree that she should be commended, not punished. She sounds like a brave, dedicated, and caring teacher who is willing to risk losing her job in order to put her students first. I am a teacher myself and have nothing but respect for any teacher who makes choices in the best interest of his/her students. The administration should be ashamed for not engaging in dialogue with her and others to establish a safe and conducive learning environment. How can one expect students and teachers to come to school/work daily if the administration doesn’t have their interests at heart? And how can parents feel comfortable approaching the administration with concerns if the “leaders” won’t take them seriously?
    How can the school culture inspire students to be leaders if the administrators don’t have their interests at heart? They can’t, and as a result, I fully support the students’ desire to hire a new assistant principal.

    I may live on the other side of the country, but I will certainly keep students, parents, and teachers in my prayers.

    Peace, LE

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  13. Bill

    Hurrah for them! It seems that of late that school administrations are getting out of hand, they want to look good and leave the children and their parents out of all decisions. You can’t walk your child to school in most areas anymore. They make up dress codes according to their own tastes. Kids are suspended for made up reasons. The parents should have more input and the Government should define the rules that govern these people.

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  14. Chris

    This sounds suspect to me. First of all demand #2 sounds like it was written by the teachers themselves! Teachers need to be professional and if they are having problems with the administration they shouldn’t be bringing the students into it. The students shouldn’t even be aware of it.

    Secondly the students demand #3 is ridiculous. Of course the school is monitoring their email! It is email provided by the school. Welcome to the real world. When you get a job someday guess what?… your work email will be monitored. (And all your other email is currently being monitored by the NSA anyway)

    I’m all for students and parents (the ones paying the tuition) making their voices heard and practicing protest and civil disobedience at a young age is good. But the real way to make change if that is really what the parents and students want is to stop paying tuition there and go somewhere else. You’re not at a public school. You don’t have to stay there.

    Same goes for the teachers. Find a new job if you’re not happy but don’t use these young women to do your dirty work. Be a grown up.

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  15. HNHS Alumna 2001

    Chiming in to also stand in support of the current young women of HNHS. I credit my time at HNHS with helping me to cultivate a fearlessness and independence that has consistently set me apart from others. No bit of technology then would have improved upon what I received from a dedicated team of teachers and a learning environment that encouraged individuality and the pursuit of ones passions. I hope that current and future generations of HNHS students can count on the same things that I did. I dream of sending my future daughters to this school, I hope that it is able to right itself so that it is still a place worthy of those dreams by that time.

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  16. H. Kirk

    So the teacher recorded a private meeting with her boss and distributed it to her students? That sounds like a pretty appalling lack of professionalism and an abuse of her relationship with those students. I would be livid if one of my kid’s teachers manipulated them in that way for her own personal gain.

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  17. HNHS alum

    Way to go, Monarchs! I graduated in 2010, which was a simpler time. Those stick-in-the-mud admins don’t know what the girls need, which is the exact opposite of what they’re trying to do. Although it is sad that it had to be taken this far, I’m so proud of my underclasswomen for making their voices heard rather than taking it in silence. We were always taught at HNHS to be the voice of change in the world, to stick up for what is right, and to voice our opinions, no matter what, and although it seems the administration has forgotten those values that used to be a core part of the curriculum, I’m glad that the students and teachers are still fighting for what is really important in a school: the students’ well-being.

    Reply
  18. HNHS alum

    Actually, there’s a high probability it was written by students. HNHS is a small school, and I’ve heard that the graduating class this year is even smaller than when I attended, so you’d be surprised how well everyone knows everyone. I would be more surprised if they didn’t know about the teachers’ being harassed.
    And I think you mean #5 rather than #3. #3 is about them not offering honors classes, and #5 is talking about the e-mail.

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  19. HNHS parent

    Marco, with all due respect, you have no clue. All you know is the limited amount you have read or seen in the news. Do you REALLY think 60% of the students would walkout, and pull together such an organized protest on such short notice if they had not been subjected to abusive behavior multiple times and over a very long period of time? This was not even the first walkout, as the first occurred well before Ms. Lemier was brought into a meeting. Your assertion that this is all based on retaliation for a popular teacher getting reprimanded is absurd.

    I can tell you as a parent who loves the school and what they have done for decades that the change started with the installation of Kirkbride as Asst Principal. Though she was welcomed with open arms when brought on board as Dir of Tech 2 years ago, I do not know of a single parent or student that does not dislike her now that we have gotten to know her, particularly since she was promoted. She is quick-to-anger, is often disrespectful to students and parents alike, and quite clearly seems to be the type of person who lets the gaining of power and authority go to her head. She is not a leader, not even close.

    There are many, many things that have not been mentioned, as you would expect from the relatively short soundbites and reports one gets from the news. You should realize there is much, much more to the story than you have read or heard, and consider that before making such rude and uninformed comments as you have here. Holy Names is a wonderful place, filled with truly wonderful, caring people, but there is a cancer that has been growing there that threatens to ruin the place. These young ladies love their school and are confident and courageous enough to make a stand to protect what the school has meant to them and to safeguard it’s future.

    While I can agree that Ms Lemier’s approach seems unprofessional, I can assure you it is because she is far more concerned about the students and the school’s future than she is about her own job and/or any concern about “professionalism”. She is well-liked and respected at Holy Names in large part because she is respected by the students and they all know she cares more about them than job security. This is a teacher and AD that is just as likely to “kick butt” and demand accountability from her students as she is to offer praise and encouragement, so she isn’t being lauded by her students because she’s, “the nicest” or “easiest to get along with”. In fact, she’s probably one of the tougher teachers at the school. But her students know she expects more from them because she believes in them and is always willing to give more of herself and her time than is required by the job.

    Do I think she was a little unprofessional in her approach with the email? Yes, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and knowing her as I do, it was not from a self-serving perspective. She knows HNHS is a special place, and hates to see it being taken down brick-by-brick.

    I applaud the efforts of Sara Lemier, professionalism be damned. I especially applaud the courage and determination of these students, all of whom knew there could be consequences to their actions or lack thereof.

    I believe Principal Curran is capable of being the leader HNHS needs to move forward, but completely agree that she needs to recognize the problems and mistakes, particularly the promotion of Ms Kirkbride to AP. I hope, like any great leader, she is able to own up to her mistakes and take steps to address them.

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  20. Rosalee White

    Im proud of the young women who chose to walk-out! They are clearly in touch with the social responsibility of the school and are serving as an excellent advocate for under paid teachers!! It may be time to get the ole gang together and see what has been happening on Harbord.

    C/O 1998

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  21. HNHS c/o 2014

    With all due respect, sir, the demands written were indeed written completely written by students. Our teachers have prepared us well and anyone who has been a student at HNHS can tell you about the preparedness of the students once we graduate.

    You mentioned that teachers should not involve us in their private matters. Teachers do not necessarily tell us. We are a VERY small school where we all know each other pretty well. As seniors, we also know our teachers and have noticed the changes in them. This past year, teachers have acted completely different, so we did not need them to tell us something was wrong.

    Our demand regarding the emails, yes I completely agree with you that our emails are monitored on a daily basis for our safety. We are not against that. The trouble was that the school completely disabled all of the students’ emails due to that recording. This did not let students to do homework, as we submit and receive information from teachers by email. This was what we disliked, not because of our emails being monitored.

    Lastly, I am sure we are all aware that we are not a public school and we can leave anytime we want. But Holy Names is a second home to most of us. There is a strong, close-knit community at holy names. With all the recent matters going on, we have reinforced this belief about the community. We have alumn from many decades coming to our school talking with us, the students, just so that we can see that our holy names family goes beyond the people within the walls of the school.

    I understand that you may see the recent matters differently than we do. We have been here for four years and have had many changes this year that have affected us greatly. In a couple of months we will be gone and you may ask yourself “why do they even bother?” But this is not just about us anymore. It is about the whole holy names family: past, present, and future. We want everyone to have the same opportunities and even better experiences than we have. This year, so far, we have seen the school go downhill in front of us. The students that have been here can testify to that and is why we have taken initiative and try to return the spirit of holy names back.

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  22. HNHS GO

    Here’s the thing, I doubt you have the inside view that we have. I respect your opinion, and realize that you and the rest of the outside world has the right to hold their own ideas. However, your statement is not completely accurate. That recording was not the only reason, it was a catalyst and a HUGE wake up call for us. If you can put aside your previous opinion, and take a look at this situation in the light that we students can project for you, I think you may have a change of heart. If not, then I am sorry to say that there is little you can do to help us with our recovering education system. Thank you for your (maybe not so much) support, and if you ever get a chance to help please, do so.

    Reply
  23. Phyllis

    Way to go another alumni throwing her support behind the Young women Of Holy Names High, and the voice of the future. I think we finally got a real candidate for President!!!

    Reply

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