MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After 27 years at the helm of Saint Francis School in Manoa, Sister Joan of Arc Souza has abruptly been "reassigned."
It was a surprise move made by The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, based in Syracuse, New York.
Sister Barbara Jean Donovan, General Minister, flew in to deliver the news to Souza.
"Unfortunately times are changing. they're changing in education, they're changing in the running of business. It was time just time for a change," Donovan said. "It's not a reflection of her and what she's done but an energetic thrust into the future so the school continues to be the wonderful educational facility it has always been."
She said that Souza was not fired or forced to retire. Instead, Donovan is simply calling it a changing of the guard.
She acknowledges, though, that Souza is not taking the news well.
"It's difficult. It is very difficult because her life has been that school," Donovan said.
Souza, 74, was born and raised in Pauoa and graduated from Saint Francis School in 1961.
She took over at the school in 1991, and is credited with saving it in 2006 when she converted it from all-girls to co-ed, adding grades and expanding the athletic program.
Graduates gathered on campus and prayed Wednesday morning after learning the beloved, longtime principal was not returning.
"I was told she was fired, it's a rumor, and if she was, I want answers," said Phyllis Stephenson, of the Saint Francis Alumni Association.
"That is not acceptable and all of us on our alumni board will fight this to the death because that's not right. There's something wrong with this picture, there's something wrong.:
A committee has been formed to find a replacement, but it won't be another nun.
Donovan they are hoping to find someone with similar values to Souza, but with more a more modern focus toward the financial aspect of running the school. She would not elaborate on that only adding, "28 years ago is not today and new things are needed in 2018 moving forward."
Because the abrupt change happened during the summer, Souza was not able to say goodbye to the students. And she was not available for comment Wednesday.
Erin Marshall, assistant principal, will be the interim head of school.