BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Nardin community hosted a “Light the Way for Nardin” march on Sunday around the school’s neighborhood. The event took place after two other demonstrations by students, parents, and teachers in response to the school’s leadership.

Candles were distributed as the demonstration began in front of the school on Cleveland Avenue at 7 p.m. Participants then moved to Elmwood Avenue, Ferry Street, and Tudor Place, before winding back to Cleveland Avenue, where they gathered in front of the school to sing Nardin’s alma mater.

Nardin Academy administration on Monday issued the following statement:

“We continue to be seriously concerned about the damage Nardin’s critics are doing to the school they profess to love and support. The full board is actively reviewing detailed findings of a third-party assessment of school leadership that includes input from more than 100 members of the Nardin community. The full board will discuss this soon, and continue with its announced ‘Plan for Healing, Growth and Renewal.’ Everyone wants the divisiveness to end, and the focus to be on our students, and an enjoyable end of the school year.”

The first demonstration in response to the school’s leadership was a walk-out on April 13. The walk-out came after biology teacher Marilou Bebak was escorted from the school, with students saying they feared a shift in morale would result in more teachers leaving.

After the walk-out, nine members of Nardin’s board called for the resignations of Nardin President Dr. Sandra Betters and Board Chair Tish Van Dyke. Additionally, major donors to the school, including the Keane family — the family behind the school’s Kevin T. Keane Sports Park — said they’d be withholding donations until change in leadership was made.

The school responded by saying the board members went against the third-party review of the school, deeming the board’s response “rogue.”

“The demands of some Board members pressuring others for action before the assessment report is released is ill-advised and is simply poor governance,” a statement released by the school on April 17 said. “We have no doubt that in their minds, these Board members believe they are acting in the best interest of Nardin.”

The statement continued, saying the nine board members “demonstrate(d) blatant disregard for (the) agreed-upon process and, more importantly, the reputation of the beloved and outstanding learning community that Nardin represents.”

Nardin parent Mark DePalma said via email on Sunday that he and other concerned parents do not believe Dr. Betters is an effective leader and said she appears to be incapable of inspiring the faculty and staff.

He said though he had no direct knowledge of the situation, he has come to understand that Bebak’s dismissal resulted from an an incident first reported on by the Buffalo News, in which she allegedly told a Black student who had used a slur regarding people with developmental disabilities, “I would never say the ‘N’ word to you, so you should never say the ‘R’ word.”

Lisa Coppola, the attorney representing Bebak, said she believes disciplinary action was taken against Bebak “directly in retaliation for her speaking out” against leadership.

The second demonstration, a walk-in on April 20, consisted of high school students entering the building in solidarity, many wearing the school color green, after Bebak was fired.

Other than the action taken against Bebak, it remains unclear what events have created the “toxic environment” many parents and students have spoken out against.

The school would not comment on the firing, however, Nardin did release a statement regarding student concerns.

“Whenever Nardin receives concerns regarding our students, we handle it with the utmost care, and we uphold our Catholic values of embracing all, and upholding the dignity of all people,” the statement said.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.