Concerns prompted investigation of BG hiring

NASHUA – Concerns about staffing and hiring practices at Bishop Guertin High School prompted requests for The Telegraph to investigate the background of Mark Phillips, who has served as the private Catholic school’s dean of student formation for grades 11 and 12, as well as the chairman of its social studies department.

After a records search revealed ethical and legal issues forced Phillips, a former practicing attorney, to resign from the California Bar Association prior to his tenure with Bishop Guertin, The Telegraph published this information in Wednesday’s edition of the paper. Though Phillips’ problems occurred in the 1990s, the concerned individuals who brought this to The Telegraph’s attention cited the lack of transparency and oversight of internal operations at Bishop Guertin, including multiple allegations of past sexual abuse by faculty and a recent law enforcement investigation into sexting among underage students. A lawsuit in one of the sexual allegations was filed this year, prompting some to question the hiring screening process for staff.

One of the concerns expressed to The Telegraph was school officials knew of Phillips’ employment history, including the circumstances that led to him losing his California law license.

Bishop Guertin officials declined to comment for Wednesday’s article, instead releasing an unsigned statement after 5 a.m. the same day via the school’s BGHS@myschoolemails.com system.

“Bishop Guertin was aware of Mr. Phillips’ situation when he was hired. Certainly, nothing in Mr. Phillips’ background compromises his ability to work as an educator,” the statement reads.

It also acknowledges Phillips is transitioning from an administrative role to educating students.

“As this school year concludes, Mr. Phillips leaves a successful administrative tenure for a long-planned return to the classroom and to his passion of teaching law, civics, and social studies to our students.”

School officials did not respond to numerous requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday, while Phillips could not be reached for comment.

Phillips resigned from the California Bar in 2001 with misconduct charges pending.

“The discipline was the result of improperly withdrawing from employment, failing to perform legal services competently, promptly refund unearned fees or communicate with clients, and committing acts of moral turpitude,” the California Bar Association’s online report document states.

“A full account of the life that Mr. Phillips has built in his hometown of Nashua since the challenges that he faced decades ago shows a proud father, faithful husband, outstanding educator, passionate coach, and energetic administrator who is well-respected and admired in the hallways of BG,” the email states.

The report is available in its entirety on the association’s website and a copy appears in conjunction with today’s article at www.nashuatelegraph.com, as does the Bishop Guertin statement.

Phillips’ background with the California Bar would not preclude him from working as a teacher in New Hampshire under state law. While Bishop Guertin officials have previously said they take background checks seriously now, New Hampshire does not require non-public schools to conduct criminal background checks on teachers.

The school, which is operated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, stands accused of knowingly hiring a convicted sex offender to teach in the 1990s. Brother Shawn McEnany was ordered to be a registered sex offender after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a teen girl he taught at another Brothers of the Sacred school in 1988.

Earlier this year, a former student, Larissa Troy, filed a lawsuit alleging she had been sexually assaulted by Brother Shawn McEnany. That abuse allegedly took place in 1995. McEnany was arrested in 1997 for failing to register as a sex offender, and being a teacher despite being a sex offender, which is illegal in New Hampshire. Those charges were later dropped.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.

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