Community split over attending school fundraiser after Zmuda's firing

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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Bellevue, WA - Hundreds of Eastside Catholic School supporters attended the school’s largest fundraiser of the year, while other parents, alumni and students stayed away because of how the school handled the firing of their gay vice principal.

Parents walking into the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue for the silent auction event said they love their school, even though the controversy over former vice Principal Mark Zmuda has been challenging.

Anne Shakib, who has a freshman student at Eastside Catholic School, said she was excited to help the team coordinating the event.

“We’re struggling at the moment, but pleased at the environment. He’s happy there, so we’re wanting to keep that going,” Shakib said.

Miska Salemann said her daughter will be a freshman in the fall. She believes the school will be a great place for her daughter.

When it comes to Zmuda, Salemann said, “He too loves the Catholic faith, so I don’t believe in pointing fingers anywhere. I just hope we all work it out.”

Salemann said the people attending the fundraiser want to keep things positive. She said she prays for all involved, including Zmuda, the school, the students and the church.

The school’s website said more than 560 people would attend the auction and dinner. The money raised is for the school’s education programs and tuition assistance.

KIRO 7 asked for the event coordinator at the function for a comment, but instead was asked to leave.

Some parents, including Florence Colburn, decided not to go.

Colburn, who was out of town Saturday, said she donated in years past but couldn’t support the school this time.

“I'm not attending, to show my disappointment with the hypocrisy my school has shown, while they are teaching the kids to welcome all into their chapel, respect and have compassion for all -- unless you are a great Catholic gay,” Colburn told KIRO 7 in a text message.

Former ECS student body president Mary Kopczynski was visiting from New York for the week. She met her husband, Red, in high school.

“Absolutely could have gone to the auction tonight, and we were actually excited we might go. Unfortunately, we felt the school had a choice. They could have gone a different way, and they could have rectified the situation. Because they didn’t, we just can’t support it anymore,” she said.

Kopczynski said no longer supporting the school has been a very hard experience.

She said she was very disappointed by a meeting alumni had with the board of trustees, where she felt the school would not change its position.

“I’m one of the adults that they produced, and these are the monsters that have been created. And we’re going to stand up for justice and what is right,” Kopczynski said.