By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com January 22 2014 3:32 PM ET
The top administrator of a Roman Catholic high school in Washington State has resigned, in the wake of the ousting of a vice principal who married his male partner.
Sister Mary Tracy, president of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, a Seattle suburb, submitted her resignation to the school’s board of trustees, the board cochairs announced in an email sent yesterday to parents and others connected with the school.
“Sister Mary came to this decision after much prayer and reflection,” reads the email, which was posted online by Seattle TV station KIRO. “For Sister Mary it was a difficult, but necessary decision so that a new leader can be brought in to ensure the entire Eastside Catholic community is moving forward on a positive path.”
No reason was given for Sister Mary’s resignation, but the school has seen much turmoil and several protests by students since vice principal Mark Zmuda was forced out last month for marrying another man. School officials said Zmuda had violated his contract by marrying his male partner, Dana Jergens. The contract calls for staff members to adhere to Roman Catholic doctrine — which, among other things, objects to same-sex marriage and expects gay people to remain celibate.
Various people interviewed by KIRO saw a relationship between Sister Mary’s resignation and Zmuda’s departure. “It’s a bittersweet victory,” said Florence Colburn, a Zmuda supporter who has two children attending the school. “It’s sad we’re here and it came to this, but this is what had to happen to reopen communication with the board and set things right at the school.” Now, she said, it’s time for “the reinstatement of Mr. Zmuda.”
“I feel bad for Sister Mary,” said Stephanie Merrow, a part-time drama coach who was offered a new contract at the school even though she is engaged to a woman. “My heart is happy for the kids and for Mark. I feel the kids are going to see they can actually make a difference. … They’re organized and they’re thoughtful and they’re pushing for love and acceptance of everyone.”
Merrow has been open about her engagement and is wearing her engagement ring to school. Apparently, as an independent contractor, she is not expected to adhere to Catholic teachings, as staffers are. She said she was recently offered a new employment agreement, which did not mention Catholic doctrine, and was told her marital status was irrelevant, the Associated Press reports.
The Eastside board of trustees has scheduled a parents’ meeting for Thursday night to discuss the next steps after Sister Mary’s resignation, and the board plans to set up additional meetings. Watch KIRO’s report below.