LAWRENCE — Fellow teachers Sean Houlihan and Natalie Ferland have known each other for years. They started dating in March, and the relationship quickly became serious. In October, when Ferland found out she was pregnant, they were surprised but elated about having a child together. They got engaged and started planning a wedding.
But on Nov. 25 — the Monday before Thanksgiving — Houlihan, 34, and Ferland, 26, were both “terminated” from Lawrence Catholic Academy, a 500-student elementary and middle school at 110 Parker St., after revealing their relationship and her pregnancy.
Houlihan said he repeatedly asked if they could resign from their teaching jobs, but they were fired instead.
School principal Jorge Hernandez issued them termination letters, saying they were fired for violating their contracts.
The couple is now speaking out against the “unprofessional and un-Christian-like” treatment they say they received from school administration. They do not want their jobs back at Lawrence Catholic Academy. However, they want the terminations removed from their professional records so they can obtain other jobs in education.
“We don’t want a lawsuit. But we want them to state we are good educators,” Houlihan said.
The couple also wants the public record set straight on why they left the school abruptly, as rumors swirl in the community.
Lawrence Catholic Academy parents and students were only told they left “for personnel reasons,” Ferland said. This hits the couple hard, they said, as they loved the family-like atmosphere of the school and enjoyed their camaraderie of their students and co-workers.
“Some of the teachers know what happened and felt awful,” Ferland said.
Houlihan and Ferland recently received 100 hand-made cards from students, in a package sent from a fellow teacher. Among the well-wishing and drawings, students repeatedly ask “Why did you leave?” in the cards. A text message Houlihan recently received from a parent read, “My daughter is devastated.”