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Gay administrator at local high school fired

Mark Zmuda, the former vice principal at Eastside Catholic High School, was fired this year for marrying his same-sex partner.

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SAMMAMISH — The former Eastside Catholic High School vice president who was forced out after marrying his gay partner  is expected to file a discrimination suit against the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The former administrator, Mark Zmuda, said school officials learned last year that he was gay and asked him not to bring his partner to school functions.

Months later, Zmuda said, he was fired because he got married and the school told him the only way to keep his job was to divorce his partner. At the time, a school spokesman said his same-sex marriage was in violation of Catholic policy.


Mark Zmuda may file discrimination lawsuit against Catholic school for firing him after he married his same-sex partner. (Photo is screengrab of video interview conducted by one of his students in December 2013).

Students fighting for Zmuda’s job are supporting the lawsuit.

“I think that`s the right thing to d. You can`t fire someone for liking the same gender,” student Mason Estes said.

Zmuda spoke out in December during an interview with one of his students.

“I was very angry and very frustrated and did not understand the reason I was being let go was because I married the love of life,” Zmuda said.

The school said it has already drafted a motion to dismiss the suit, saying Zmuda violated his employment contract when he married his gay partner.  An attorney for the school said Zmuda went against Catholic teachings.

“I don`t think that`s going to cut it; this issue really transcends what is church doctrine,” attorney James S. Rogers said.

Rogers has dealt with a lot of clergy abuse litigation in the past and says the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in Washington could help Zmuda`s case.

“The conflicts are going to lie in the law of our state in which the church operates. They are not in a vacuum, you know, we are living in that kind of society,” Rogers said.

But the school said it’s protected from this kind of legal action because it is a religious institution. That issue of civil rights versus religious freedom could ultimately be decided by a jury.

Zmuda said the termination caused economic and emotional harm and and he wants the monetary compensation to be determined at trial.

SAMMAMISH, Wash. — Students at Eastside Catholic say they are one step closer to reinstating their ousted vice principal after the head of the school suddenly resigned on Tuesday.

ecprMark Zmuda was forced out of his job last month after the school discovered he married his male partner.

Many students and parents were are sad to see Sister Mary Tracy leave the private school, but some kids say its exactly what needs to happen to change the school’s stance on same-sex marriage.

“The goal of this whole thing is to get Mr. Zmuda back,” said senior Julia Burns.

What started as sit-ins and protests nearly a month ago has turned into a national movement to reinstate Zmuda.

“Now that she’s gone we can hopefully hire a new head of school that can be more open minded and definitely more sympathetic to the situation and get Zmuda back,” Burns said.

The president of the school, Sister Mary Tracy, suddenly resigned on Tuesday. The news sent shockwaves through Sammamish.

“I’m really sad and I really, really liked Sister Mary Tracy,” said parent Tracy MacKenzie. “She’s been great for our school.”

Zmuda says he was forced to give up his job as vice principal when school officials discovered he married his long time male partner. Sister Mary Tracy terminated Zmuda back in December.

Now some Eastside Catholic alumni say it’s time for Zmuda to get his job back, and they’re circulating a petition.

“It’s sad that we’re here and that it came to this but this is what had to happen to reopen an open communication with the board and to set things right,” said Florence Colburn.

Some parents think it’s a tall order to ask the private school to split from its religious view on same-sex marriage.

“I understand both sides of it,” said MacKenzie. “Either way it works out, I can understand the reasoning for it.”

The search for Sister Mary Tracy’s replacement is already underway.

Alumni plan to turn in their petitions to the school’s board of trustee’s during Thursday’s meeting.

EastsideCatholicSchoolSAMMAMISH — Eastside Catholic School President, Sister Mary Tracy, has been taking heat after her decision to fire the school’s vice principal because he married his gay partner. The embattled Tracy resigned as president and head of school at Eastside Catholic on Tuesday, effective immediately.

Eastside Catholic administrators released this statement: “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.”

The firing of popular Vice Principal Mark Zmuda in late December sparked national attention. The backlash started when the students became extremely upset about Zmuda’s dismissal.

“We’re all here for him we accept him for who he is, we’re ashamed that this has happened. We’re going to do everything we can to stop it,” student Julia Burns said.

There was a sit in and demonstrations. Students even skipped class to protest what they say was Zmuda’s forced resignation, not because he is gay, but because he married another man.

With many parents still upset, some say Sister Mary Tracy’s resignation is a big, big step in the right direction.

“It’s a bittersweet victory… It’s sad that we’re here and it came to this but this is what had to happen to reopen an open communication with the Board and to set things right,” said parent Florence Colburn.

Colburn and about twenty-five other parents and alumni met Tuesday night for a regularly scheduled meeting.

Sister Mary Tracy’s resignation was not on the agenda at first, but when news of her departure broke they spent a lot of time talking about what will come next.

They all signed a petition about issues facing the school – top among them now: the reinstatement of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda.

“This is what we’re working towards and it had to start with a change in leadership to even have that dialogue,” Colburn said.

Eastside Catholic administrators released this statement Tuesday saying ‘Sister Mary came to this decision after much prayer and reflection. 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.’

The search for a new president at Eastside Catholic begins immediately.

SEATTLE — The support for a vice principal who says he was forced to leave his job at a Catholic school after marrying his gay partner continues to grow.

Today, a petition with more than 20,000 signatures was delivered to the Seattle Archdiocese.

eastside1“This morning, it crossed the 21,000 signature threshold,” says former Eastside Catholic student Corey Sinser.

People from around the world are asking church officials to reconsider their view on marriage equality.

“I think it is important for the church to progress in their thinking and their ideas and with society,” says Christopher Gillette.

“I want there to be some more equality in my church, the church I believe in,” adds Lucy Gillette. “Hopefully that will happen, it might take some time.”

After receiving the petition, a spokesman for the Archdiocese came out and addressed the crowd. He says the school’s decision has been misunderstood, and that their goal was not to discriminate, but to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“The school made its decision after a period of reflection and a period of consultation,” says Greg Magnoni. “Having made the decision, the Archdiocese supports them in that decision.”

Many asked what Pope Francis would think of this controversy, given his comments about not judging gays and lesbians.

“Everything he`s said to us indicates we have a responsibility as Catholics to live our lives fully within Catholic teachings,” Magnoni said.

Supporters say they didn’t expect vast changes right away. They’re just happy that a dialogue has begun.

“We don`t think the pope`s going to marry a gay couple next week. I don`t think the Archbishop is going to fly the rainbow flag,” says Sinser. “But this is a good chance to push the conversation forward a little bit.”

SAMMAMISH — After weeks of student rallies and protests in support of former Eastside Catholic High School Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, another staff member is speaking out about her sexuality.

Zmuda said he was fired in mid-December after school officials learned he had married his male partner.  Zmuda said Eastside officials told him he could keep his job if he got a divorce.

STEPHANIEMERROW2On Monday afternoon, Eastside Catholic drama coach Stephanie Merrow called in to the Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio to say she is gay and engaged to her girlfriend and planned on wearing her engagement ring to school.

“When the girls ask me, ‘Where did you get that ring?  What’s your fiance’s name?  I’m not going to lie.  That goes against my beliefs I value.  I’m shaking right now, thinking about it in anger and fear, but I love those kids and really respect and appreciate what they did for Mark.  So I’m not going to lie to them.  I’m going to say her name is Jenny,” said Merrow during her radio interview.

On Monday afternoon, School President Sister Mary Tracy confirmed School Board President Glen Colin stepped down, but wouldn’t elaborate on why.

SAMMAMISH — Eastside students aren’t giving up their fight for former vice principal Mark Zmuda, who lost his job because he married another man in violation of the Roman Catholic school’s rules.

SIGNREMOVALSeven students from Eastside Catholic High School met with the school’s president Monday morning in the hope of bringing change to the school’s stance on same-sex marriage.

But there weren’t any protests because the administration was threatening to kick students off campus and call their parents if they missed any classes.

School employees removed protest signs that were hanging on the fence outside of the school.

The protests started just before Christmas when hundreds of students took to the streets.  They were upset about the removal of vice principal and swim coach Zmuda.

Zmuda worked at the private school for more than a year, but his employment ended when administrators found out he had married a man.

In an interview with one of his students, Zmuda said school administrators told him that he could save his job by divorcing his husband – but that was something he wouldn’t do.

A video of the interview is available below:

The kids who got a chance to speak one-on-one with Eastside Catholic CEO and President Mary Tracy said the conversation was respectful. They also said Tracy regrets how Zmuda’s termination was handled.

“We appreciate her feelings towards the matter,” said senior Ian Edwards, who attended Monday’s meeting. “It’s comforting to know it wasn’t an easy issue for her, but we’re still pushing for a change in this kind of attitude from the Catholic Church of discrimination in the workplace.”

According to an email sent out to faculty, Eastside Catholic has already hired Zmuda’s replacement — it’s a man who has worked at the school in prior years.

Eastside Catholic students are planning another protest they call “Z” day on Jan. 31. That’s when supporters of Zmuda will all be wearing orange.

They’re hoping that message reaches the Roman Catholic Church and convinces the right people to change the church’s stance on same-sex marriage.

SAMMAMISH – It’s the first day back after the long holiday break and today, and student at Eastside Catholic High School plan to hold a rally during the lunch hour to demand answers.

Mark Zmuda was the vice principal at Eastside Catholic but was fired last month because he married his male partner.

The attorney for the school says he was not fired, but resigned, saying the decision was mutual. The attorney said Zmuda understood that working for a catholic school should mean he followed the church’s teachings.

For weeks, students have been fighting to bring Mr. Z — as they affectionately call him — back. They have protested at the school and outside of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

On the twitter account, ‘KeepMrZ2013,’ students said this rally will not be a sit-in, but a gathering to get to the bottom of what really happened.

Zmuda sat down with a former student to tell his side of the story, in that interview, Zmuda says he was told he could keep his job if he got a divorce.

A video of the interview is available below:

zmudaSAMMAMISH — The former vice principal of Eastside Catholic School speaks out in an interview with a student.

Mark Zmuda said he did not resign — he says he was let go last week after school officials found out Zmuda married his gay partner.

It’s a story that’s captured the attention of the nation. Local Catholic students continue to rally the church to change its stance on same sex marriage after Zmuda lost his job.

“To set the record straight I was terminated,” Zmuda said.

Catrina Crittenden, an Eastside Catholic student, says the former vice principal asked her to do the interview. Sitting next to his husband, Zmuda made it clear that he did not willingly resign.

“I was told I was going to be let go,” Zmuda said. “It was difficult for me because this is definitely not a decision that I would want to have happened to me.”

The interview lasted 45 minutes and Catrina shared the first minute of the dialogue with Q13 Fox News.

“I asked why I was being terminated. They said because I violated Catholic teaching,” Zmuda said. “I asked if it was a breach of contract, they said no. I asked if it had anything to do with job performance or evaluations, they also said no. They said it was because I was married to a man.”

Michael Patterson, an attorney for Eastside Catholic, is disputing Zmuda’s story saying there was a mutual agreement.

“He unequivocally indicated he was resigning because he understood the contractual relationship he had with the school,” Patterson said.

Patterson went on to say.

“I was absolutely astonished and surprised by this interview that he apparently gave to this student,” Patterson said.

So far, students are not backing down.

Supporters have staged sit-ins at several Catholic schools, protests on the streets and in front of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

“Response that he got from the high school – he was amazed in general,” Crittenden said.

In just over a week, a petition on to get Zmuda’s job back has collected more than 28,000 signatures as of Friday night. But school officials say they are not changing their decision.

“We have a principal to live up to we have our first amendment rights just as everyone in this country has their first amendment rights,” Patterson said.

Students are planning another protest outside Eastside Catholic on Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m.