PITTSBURGH (AP) — The former headmaster of a Pennsylvania Catholic school said Wednesday he was fired for politics, not performance, after officials found he'd been dismissed from another Catholic school because of his racist writings.
Mario Bella told The Associated Press that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie had no interest in his side of the story. He said church officials cared only about his personal politics after they found he had legally changed his name from Frank Borzellieri and omitted his firing by the Archdiocese of New York in 2011.
He says his job evaluations were pristine and his personal politics are behind his dismissal last week from DuBois Area Catholic School.
Borzellieri made headlines while on the New York City School Board for trying to ban a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. from the school district, calling King a "hypocritical adulterer" and "a leftist hoodlum with significant Communist ties.""
Bella said Wednesday that "when I am judged on my performance, I get nothing but good reviews, but when these cowards look at the politics it makes them shiver in their boots. They had no interest in my side of the story which was the truth. All they cared about was the politics. They never spoke to me about it."
Bella legally changed his name before he was hired in December at DuBois Area Catholic School, a K-12 institution about 75 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, said Samuel Signorino, the director of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie.
Last week, a school employee dug up information about Bella's past, and he was terminated Friday after diocesan officials learned he had omitted from his resume his 2011 firing by the Archdiocese of New York.
The identity change "really fooled us," and Bella's references "gave no indication that he had a different name in the past," Signorino said.
Bella said his reputation as an educator is what matters.
"I have an excellent reputation as an educator, which is why they hired me," he said.
The website of Borzellieri's publisher, Cultural Studies Press, still touts books written by him, including "Lynched: A Conservative's Life on a New York City School Board," which recounts his 11 years "as the only conservative and Eurocentrist on this ultra-liberal school board."
In August 2011, New York church officials fired Borzellieri after two years as principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, a predominantly black and Hispanic elementary school in the Bronx, for writings church officials deemed racially offensive. That happened shortly after the New York Daily News reported that Borzellieri had written that expanding black and Hispanic populations would create a "New Dark Age."
Signorino said the educator's resume didn't include any information about the New York school. Because his educational background was otherwise impressive and the references checked out, he was hired, Signorino said.
None of the references told the diocese and its school that Bella worked for them under his previous name, Signorino said.
"We went back to some of the references and said, 'Why didn't you tell us?' and they said, 'You didn't ask that specific question,'" Signorino said. "I've been an educator for 30 years, and I've never run across something like this."
A school employee dug up the information on Bella's past. Church and school officials declined to identify the person.
Monsignor Charles Kaza, the school's interim president, said he believes the employee was simply curious about the new headmaster's background.
"We have a new person in here and let's see what we can find out about him, that kind of thing," Kaza said.
Signorino said he expects applicants will henceforth be asked if they've ever used another name.
"We thought we were very thorough, getting a criminal records check and all those other clearances, his transcripts, everything like that," Kaza said. "A learning experience is what I think you could call it."