Saturday, November 20, 1999

St. Louis president’s
firing spurs questions

Bullet The issue: The board of trustees of St. Louis School has dismissed its president, the Rev. Mario Pariante.

Bullet Our view: The trustees deny that they have favored football Coach Cal Lee in a dispute with Pariante, but they must do more to convince the skeptics.

THE abrupt dismissal of the Rev. Mario Pariante as president of St. Louis School finds some parents of St. Louis students skeptical of the explanation given by the board of trustees. Margaret Oda, chairwoman of the board committee that evaluated the president's performance, said Pariante "has not lived up to the standards of leadership and administrative skills as set by the board."

The trustees denied that conflict between the president and Cal Lee, athletic director and coach of the football team, lay behind their decision. In fact, board Chairman Walter Kirimitsu said the trustees agreed with Pariante that more emphasis should be placed on academics.

The Rev. John Russi, head of the Marianist Province of the Pacific, who preceded Pariante as St. Louis president and who attended the board meeting as a guest, concurred that athletics vs. academics "was not the issue" at the meeting.

However, John Beresiwsky, who has sent four sons to St. Louis, said there appeared to be "a big power struggle" between Lee and Pariante. "We want a school with a football team, not a football team with a school," he said.

Beresiwsky cited a September 1988 incident in which St. Louis football players damaged property during a drinking party in a Las Vegas hotel. Pariante suspended a number of players for one day, forfeited a game against Kamehameha School and docked the pay of coaches responsible for supervising the players. There was speculation that Lee succeeded in obtaining lenient treatment of the players and coaches.

Trustee Walter Tagawa cited the same incident as demonstrating Pariante's shortcomings in communication. Tagawa said the president had attended the board's November meeting but made no mention of the football team's problems.

The next thing the trustees knew, he said, Pariante was holding a press conference announcing his decision to suspend the players. Tagawa maintained that although the incident involved the football team, the issue was Pariante's failure to communicate, not football.

The perception exists that Father Pariante was the loser of a battle with the football coach over the school's priorities. Even if this perception is erroneous, and it seems to be, it may linger over the Kaimuki campus for a long time.

St. Louis has a proud record of domination of interscholastic football in Hawaii. But St. Louis is about much more than football.

In their appointment of Pariante's successor, the trustees should make it clear that academics must take priority over athletics. They should direct the next president to end any special treatment given football players, and back him up if he finds it necessary to take disciplinary action against players.

Peace in N. Ireland

Bullet The issue: A new compromise has been forged to salvage the peace agreement for Northern Ireland.

Bullet Our view: Until the Irish Republican Army surrenders its weapons, the success of the peace efforts will remain in doubt.

ANOTHER attempt has been made to bring peace to Northern Ireland -- by salvaging last year's Good Friday accords. As the American mediator, former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, admits, its success is still in doubt. However, Mitchell predicts that the new compromise package will eventually lead to formation of a Protestant-Cath-olic government for Northern Ireland and induce the outlawed IRA to disarm.

On April 10, 1998, Good Friday, a historic agreement was announced calling for rapid progress on the formation of a Northern Ireland government, the disarming of feuding Catholic and Protestant forces and establishment of relations between the province and the Irish Republic.

In referendums held simultaneously the next month, voters in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic approved the agreement by overwhelming margins.

But the deal started to unravel last summer and the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland asked Mitchell to come back and attempt to salvage it. In the process, he has crossed the Atlantic 20 times since September.

As the Associated Press reported, the new compromise package calls for the Ulster Unionists, the province's major Protestant party, to drop their longstanding demand that the Irish Republican Army disarm before the four-party government is formed.

Instead, the Ulster Unionists would accept the Sinn Fein party, the political arm of the IRA, as government colleagues on the same day the IRA started negotiations with a disarmament commission.

However, David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader who accepted this compromise, faces considerable opposition within his party. He could be ousted as party leader in a key vote late this month. If Trimble loses, Mitchell said, the agreement may fall apart.

Trimble's critics complain that the IRA has provided no guarantees that it will surrender its weapons. Mitchell agrees, but adds that there is only one guarantee -- that if the process fails there will be no disarmament.

The Good Friday accord called for total disarmament of the IRA, as well as outlawed pro-British groups, by next May. Mitchell expressed confidence that Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain, who leads the disarmament commission, will achieve that objective.

But the outcome of these efforts remains very much in doubt -- and will be until the IRA surrenders its weapons.

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