EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 15, 2013

Fired teachers, Catholic school settle

LAWRENCE — Former Lawrence Catholic Academy teachers Sean Houlihan and Natalie Ferland are expecting a child in June. They can also expect to continue receiving their paychecks and health care insurance for the rest of the school year.

It is an agreement the couple reached with the private Catholic elementary school one week after they went public about being fired because of their out-of-wedlock pregnancy. They are engaged to be married in 2015.

Their professional work records will also indicate they resigned on Nov. 25 rather than having been terminated.

Houlihan, 34, and Ferland, 26, had revealed their relationship to school officials. In separate letters, school principal Jorge Hernandez said he was firing them for violating their contracts with the school.

After learning about the couple’s plight in last Sunday’s Eagle-Tribune, attorney Anthony DiFruscia of Lawrence offered to help them for free. Terminating an employee for “good cause” does not mean it was “legal cause,” DiFruscia said.

The agreement stipulates both Houlihan, who made $40,000 annually, and Ferland, who earned $35,000, will stay on the LCA payroll until Aug. 31, 2014. Their health care insurance will be paid for until then as well. Ferland is due in June.

Their departures from the school will also be officially characterized as “resignations,” which the couple said will help them obtain new jobs in education. Both of them have master’s degrees.

“I think it’s a fair resolution for both sides. And it’s the Christian thing to do,” DiFruscia said.

After rumors swirled over their terminations, the couple talked about what they described as “unprofessional and un-Christian like” treatment from the Lawrence Catholic Academy administration.

Houlihan, who taught seventh and eighth grade, thanked DiFruscia for “his ability to utilize the law as a tool to fix an act of injustice.”

However, Houlihan stressed, “There are no winners here. Lawrence Catholic Academy has lost two strong educators that were passionate about their profession, had an unconditional love for their students and loved the camaraderie of their colleagues.”

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