By Tim O’Meilia
Backwash from the convictions of two Delray Beach priests continues to roil waters at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church as a couple sued parish officials Oct. 13, claiming their two children were expelled from the parish school in retaliation for their questioning of school finances.
Longtime parishioners Paul and Michele Maresca of Boynton Beach said their children, Michael, 11, and Danielle, 7, were expelled on the eve of classes, Michele was banned from substitute teaching and the couple was prohibited from volunteering at the school.
The suit alleges that their questioning of the need for a 20 percent tuition hike in light of a supposed $4 million school endowment, restitution paid by the errant priests and paid insurance claims led to their being ostracized.
“We sought answers and reassurance. We got resistance and retaliation,” Paul Maresca said in a statement. The suit does not name the parish, school or the Roman Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach but instead names the church pastor, the Rev. Thomas Skindeleski; the school principal, Vikki Delgado, and the parish administrator, John Krolikowski, all of whom Maresca said “conspired to retaliate against our family.”
In a statement, diocese spokeswoman Alexis Walkenstein said the tuition dispute “unfortunately has been blown out of proportion and many of the facts pertaining to this dispute are simply false.”
A financial statement released by the parish shows a $2 million endowment and that school operations lost $533,000 last year. Walkenstein said none of the endowment money was recouped from losses in the cases of former pastors John Skehan and Francis Guinan.
Skehan and Guinan were convicted earlier this year of grand theft. Skehan, 81, is serving 14 months for spending more than $100,000 on homes and trips to Ireland. Guinan, 66, is serving four years for taking up to $100,000 to spend on gambling, trips and a female acquaintance. Testimony in both cases showed that the priests diverted collection money to parish accounts they controlled so the money would not be reported to the diocese.
In a letter to parishioners after the priests were arrested, Skindeleski wrote the school had “big endowments” because that money had not been lost.
The decision to raise the tuition from $5,000 to $6,000 annually was agreed to by three parish finance, school and parent organizations, Walkenstein said, and the increase was explained to parents at a Home and School Association meeting and in papers sent home with students. Tuition for two-child families increased from $6,700 to $7,500.