For much of the last 30 years, a small elementary school just beyond the south side of Mt. Helix has been a quiet anchor for families seeking affordable private education for their children.

Under the dedicated guidance of its Principal Karen Laaperi, Santa Sophia Academy, a Catholic school, has served generations of families in Casa de Oro’s multi-cultural community.

But with virtually little warning and no consultation with the school community, parents say, the San Diego diocese suddenly decided to enforce a policy that hadn’t been enforced for years and is forcing Laaperi to leave her post.

In a letter to the school community, John Galvan, director of the diocese office for schools, informed the school community that he had decided to enforce a “long-standing diocese policy’’ that restricts relatives supervising family members.

Laaperi, with permission of the diocesan leadership at the time, hired her son, employing him as a teacher. Parents say the diocese was aware of the original hiring and allowed it. Now, suddenly, the diocese made a decision that is forcing the principal to leave after decades of exemplary service.

Laaperi has attempted to keep a low profile despite the angry parents. In an email to to the parents which was shared by parents with, Laaperi tried to calm the situation saying “It is my opinion there is nothing to gain in seeking legal action or making this public. I believe we should always strive for our reputation to be an image of Christ to all who know us or may come to know us.”

Kevin Eckery, vice chancellor of the San Diego Diocese, acknowledged that the nepotism rule had not been enforced under the previous bishop, but the organization began conversations about the rule soon after new Bishop Robert McElroy was appointed in 2015.

Eckery said the move at Santa Sophia was not spurred by specific complaints, but that he was aware there were “some expressions of discomfort” on the part of parents who didn’t want to discuss teacher performance with the principal.

Full story at La Mesa Today.