Gay coach at Seattle-area Catholic School Worries How Administration Will Take Her Recent Engagement
SEATTLE - A part-time musical coach at a Catholic school in Washington state said Tuesday she is engaged to her same-sex partner and is nervous about how school leaders will handle the news after they forced out a vice principal who married his partner.
Stephanie Merrow, who said she was hired for a second time to choreograph this year’s spring musical at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, got engaged shortly after the departure of vice principal Mark Zmuda.
Merrow and her partner have been together for five years and had been talking about getting married for months, and she said the timing of the engagement was a coincidence. They are planning a wedding for August.
Students at Eastside Catholic have led protests in recent weeks over the departure of Zmuda. Merrow said she wanted to go public to support the students who have been leading protests on behalf of Zmuda.
"I was so proud of them that it was time to say something to back them up," Merrow said. "They are really trying to change history and change the church. I value what they are doing."
School attorney Mike Patterson said he couldn’t comment on Merrow until he was able to gather more facts about her relationship with the school. A call to Sister Mary Tracy, head of the school, was not immediately returned.
Merrow, who is not a teacher at Eastside Catholic and works only on the school musical, said she has not been impressed by the school’s handling of Zmuda and wonders if she might be treated differently because she didn’t sign the same teacher contract as he did.
Her employment agreement was narrow in scope and didn’t discuss following Catholic teachings on issues like gay marriage, she said.
Merrow said she doesn’t think that school leaders knew she was gay.
The school and Zmuda have disputed the circumstances of his departure, with Zmuda saying he was fired and the school saying he resigned after acknowledging that his marriage violated Catholic teaching and, subsequently, the terms of his contract.
Patterson has acknowledged that school leadership floated the idea that Zmuda could possibly get a divorce to keep his job. The lawyer, however, added the suggestion was a hypothetical idea that was never seriously explored.
Eastside Catholic has about 900 students, mostly in high school.