After week of protests in Delaware, Catholic girls’ school reinstates fired principal

St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Parish has reinstated Cindy Mann as principal of the Padua Academy high school for girls in Wilmington after more than a week of protests by students, parents and other supporters. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Parish has reinstated Cindy Mann as principal of the Padua Academy high school for girls in Wilmington after more than a week of protests by students, parents and other supporters. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The principal at Padua Academy, fired 11 days ago in a dispute over the school’s financial support of its parish affiliate, has been reinstated after several days of protests by students and parents.

Cindy Mann’s reinstatment was announced Tuesday about 2 p.m. in a release issued by the spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington on behalf of St. Anthony of Padua parish.

The statement from diocesan spokesman Robert Krebs said Mann, who had a heart attack and bypass surgery last year but had been working until her March 16 dismissal, “may return to work as soon as her treating physician certifies that she is able to resume her duties as principal.”

After she returns, Mann and the Rev. Nicholas Waseline, the pastor who fired her, “will discuss renewal of her contract,” Krebs’ statement said. “The parish is willing to consider a two-year renewal, which would be inconsistent with diocesan policy, but the Diocese is willing to make an exception for Mrs. Mann under the circumstances.”

Mann responded in an email from her attorney, Thomas Neuberger, who had accused the parish and diocese of gender discrimination because she had stood up to the male-dominated church and threatened to sue.

Mann plans to return to the all-girls Catholic high school of about 660 students after the Easter break. She also thanked Waseline, the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales and Bishop W. Francis Malooly for their efforts to resolve the dispute.

Her statement said Malooly “played an indispensable role and was a good shepherd for his flock throughout our difficulties.”

Mann also praised the girls of Padua and their families.

“My girls stood by me and picked me up when I was down,” she said. “I know they will remember throughout their lives that good can come out of every difficult situation as long as we stick together and rely on our heavenly Father. I can’t wait to see you and give each of you a big hug.”

In a statement, Neuberger called the resolution “an Easter miracle.” He added, “It’s a day of new birth, and I am sure good working relationships will abound at Padua and St. Anthony’s.”

The dispute revolved in large part around an annual “stewardship assessment” the pastor had levied on the school since last year to help the financially ailing parish, which also has an elementary school independent of Padua.

Padua, where tuition is now $13,800 a year, was required to pay increasing amounts — $40,000 last year, $90,000 this year ,and $240,000  in the 2021-22 school year. That would be $400 per student in 2021-22.

When Mann balked and questioned Waseline’s honesty in defending the need for the assessments, she was abruptly terminated.

That led to protests outside and inside church, and outside school on March 19, where hundreds of students protested, staging a full-day walkout.

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