Trustees talk seminary budget at board meeting

Author: Bryan Martin
Date Published: 08/17/2007

The St. Herman Theological Seminary board of trustees in a meeting Thursday attempted to budget operating expenses for the opening of the school this fall.

The board officially convened in a teleconference, since its 10 members are located throughout the United States.

Ben Ardinger, a member of the board who lives in Kodiak, said today he cannot comment on the board’s Thursday discussion since the trustees agreed to not publicly discuss the meeting, based on the recommendation of Bishop Nikolai, who heads the Alaska Diocese and is the presiding officer of the board of trustees.

The board is presently writing an official statement concerning the seminary, expected to be released early next week.

The board oversees the operation of the St. Herman Theological Seminary, and according to a source, its meeting date was moved up to explain allegations against Nikolai and Fr. Isidore, the newly appointed rector of the seminary and chancellor of the Alaska Diocese, made by Paul Sidebottom, a missionary who was formerly assistant dean of academics at the seminary.

During Thursday’s board meeting, Nikolai focused attention on the operation of the seminary, primarily staff positions and the operating budget, and diverted discussions of the allegations, according to a source.

Attempts to reach Nikolai today were unsuccessful. He previously said the seminary plans to open on schedule with 12 students Aug. 29.

Nikolai said he plans to bring people to Kodiak to fill teaching positions temporarily.

A board of trustees search committee has been attempting to find a qualified person to serve as dean but so far has been unsuccessful.

Ardinger, in a previous letter sent to other trustees, expressed concern that the school is without an academic dean, librarian and music instructor and its rector Isidore is on suspension while in a substance abuse rehabilitation center in Minnesota.

“The financial condition of the seminary is not good,” according to one source.

A copy of St. Herman’s Seminary budget obtained by the Kodiak Daily Mirror shows an option for funding temporary budgets approved by the board Thursday.

The board also approved obtaining a loan for $50,000.

Operating budget figures show that for 2006-07, total income is $622,500, and actual income as of June 30, 2007, is $467,516. The budget shows proposed funding for 2007-08 is $589,500.

Based on funding for a lower number of staff and temporary positions the approved operating budget figure is $438, 255.

“The seminary is badly short on money to fund staff,” the source said.

As a result, the board has decided a major effort will get under way to solicit funds from private donations.

“The school is down to two full-time faculty positions,” the source said. “Other positions are to be filled by visiting instructors.

“I am very discouraged as to the future of the seminary. If funds are not raised there could be serious implications for the seminary to continue operating for 2007-08. The seminary is in jeopardy due to the need to fill the positions,” the source said.

The investigation into misconduct allegations on the part of Isidore and Nikolai was brought up at the meeting, “but Nikolai said he would not talk about it,” the source said.

Also mentioned at the meeting was the possibility of owing salary to Sidebottom. He was terminated after he wrote a letter to Metropolitan Herman, the primate with offices in New York who heads the eight diocesan bishops throughout the United States.

Sidebottom moved from Kodiak to Kansas, his home diocese, after his termination.

The investigation into charges of sexual harassment and abuse, assault and domestic violence and neglect and malpractice is being conducted by Metropolitan Herman’s office in Syosset, N.Y.

Alexey Karlgut is the chief investigator for the Orthodox Church in America. He is a graduate of Concordia College and St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary but does not hold a doctorate as previously reported.

Mirror writer Bryan Martin can be reached via e-mail at bmartin@kodiakdailymirror.com.