SACRAMENTO — Ofa Po’oi is a freshman at Christian Brothers High School in Oak Park and she loves what the school has to offer in terms of a quality education and the LaSallian values it teaches the students.
She plays basketball and is going to play softball in the spring. Her brother, Vincent Po’oi, is a junior at Christian Brothers and is on the football team. The Po’ois are grateful for the educational opportunity at the high school, but do not understand the politics that seem to be going on behind closed doors.
The Po’ois and other families are concerned about the recent and sudden firing of principal Chris Orr, who was relieved of his duties last month after two years in the position. Orr was CBS’s first African American principal in the school’s 143-year history.
Students, instructors, and parents respected Orr. Now they are fighting for him while questioning the school’s president and members of the school board’s actions. Orr was fired without reason and without cause.
“It was shocking and I was devastated,” Ofa Po’oi told The OBSERVER of when she learned that Orr was fired. “This was my first year at Christian Brothers and I was expecting more out of what they were telling us. I can’t stand to see this school without Mr. Orr. He’s a leader and that’s what I want to be. I can’t be a leader if I don’t have a role model.”
Ofa Po’oi made her remarks after a news conference in front of the school on Thursday morning.
More than 30 Christian Brothers students walked out of their classes as a sign of support for Orr to attend the news conference, which was organized by the Greater Sacramento NAACP. NAACP president Betty Williams, Greater Sacramento Urban League President Cassandra Jennings, Richard Owen from Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, and Fabrizio Sasso, President of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, spoke at the media event.
Supporters demand that Orr be reinstated. The group also revealed that as of Nov. 6, more than 800 community members have signed a petition urging Orr’s reinstatement.
In addition, a demand of accountability from Christian Brothers President Lorcan Barnes and the school’s board of trustees was made out as a request. Barnes fired Orr, which was relayed to the parents as “concluded” by the board.
Barnes sent a letter dated Nov. 1 to the parents that reiterated Orr’s standing with Christian Brothers.
“On Oct. 14, I shared with you that Mr. Orr’s service had concluded,” Barnes’ letter said. “In terms of Orr’s departure, I must reiterate that as with all personnel matters, we respect his privacy and dignity. It would be inappropriate to publicly share details. He will not be returning to Christian Brothers as Principal. However, he is welcome to attend school events.”
Ofa Po’oi said she loves “Principal Orr with my whole heart” and she shared that he was “the foundation of what Christian Brothers is trying to be.” The freshman said the school’s “LaSallian Values” were manifested by Orr.
The five core principles of a Lasallian School are “Faith in the Presence of God,” “Respect for All Persons,” “Inclusive Community,” “Quality Education,” and “Concern for the Poor and Social Justice.” Orr had these values posted up in his Christian Brothers’ office for all to see.
“You know, that’s what they tell us and this is what we strive to be at Christian Brothers. That was what Mr. Orr was,” Ofa Po’oi said of the Lasallian values. “He was the change around the campus. He was walking the walk and talking the talk. He was doing it all. He could do it all.”
By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer