The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 4, 2013

McCort supporters gather

Group being formed to seek answers


More than 300 Bishop McCort students, alumni, parents and supporters came out in support of suspended Principal Ken Salem and to push for information about his removal.

“I think everybody that is here feels the same: Bishop McCort needs Ken Salem,” Richard M. DelSignore said, adding that the meeting was a good way to get organized.

The grass-roots effort was launched Friday as word spread that McCort’s board of trustees had placed Salem on leave. Although the trustees’ announcement gave no reason, Salem’s attorney noted Bishop McCort has recently been involved in a scandal involving Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker.

Organizers Timothy Burns and Bob McGowan said McCort supporters are organizing as a nonprofit to support the school. But the first order of business is to approach trustees for answers, they said.

“We don’t know,” Burns said. “We want to work together with the trustees. We encourage people to support the school. We just want some openness.”

Burns said the rally organizers don’t know, for instance, how trustees are selected.

Those attending the rally at Richland Township Fire Department on Scalp Avenue were asked to submit written questions and to sign up as members of the proposed organization, Friends and Family of Bishop McCort. Burns said he will serve as legal counsel to incorporate the nonprofit.

“This is not the night for us to come up and ask those questions,” Burns said. “We, as an organization, don’t have those answers.”

The new organization will work with trustees to open dialogue, McGowan said.

“We are really trying to minimize the rumors,” McGowan said. “We want to try to deal with facts. We are trying to provide a venue in which everybody in this room can be heard.”

Gap Barbin and Ryan Eckenrod represented current McCort students.

“We need to remember the power of prayer,” Barbin said. “Two things I have learned: There is power in numbers; and there is power in a person from Bishop McCort. This strength will guide us to the answers we seek.”

The focus will be on support for the school, Burns stressed.

“To be frank, we want Mr. Salem back,” Burns said. “But at the same time, we realize there is a bigger picture here. And that is the future of Bishop McCort.”


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