Still waiting for answers at Eastside Catholic

by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:

This was one of many student protests that followed the termination of Mark Zmuda.

Sammamish, Wash. - Possible answers in the Eastside Catholic controversy have been pushed off again, this time until Wednesday.

On Tuesday, there was some suspension and apprehension when theater coach Stephanie Merrow returned to campus. 

On Monday, she went public with her engagement to another woman, her partner of five years, Jenny.  She called into a radio talk news program that was discussing the controversy over the recent dismissal of another Eastside Catholic educator, Mark Zmuda. 

The vice principal lost his job after the school found out he had married another man.

Stephanie thought there was a good chance she would be fired also.  "A little shaky, walked uphill," she said of going back to Eastside, but, "no one said anything to me."  A few of her students hugged her and told her how happy and proud they were of her. They also wanted to see her engagement ring.  Then, they got down to business, and rehearsed their production of "Guys and Dolls" like normal.

But things are not normal at Eastside. Some of the students who have been organizing very public and visible demonstrations against Zmuda's firing met with school President Sister Mary Tracy on Tuesday. Students say Sister Mary told them she was proud of them.  They believe she is actually "on their side."  They say she even issued a statement through them that reads, "I look forward to the day when no individual loses their job because they are married to a person of the same sex."

Junior Julia Burns says she believes Sister Mary's hands are tied.  Julia and her friends point to the hierarchy in the Catholic Church, and they believe that their administrators might like it to change, but others are putting their foot down.  "I'd say the main player here would be the archdiocese," Julia believes.

KIRO 7 has reached out to the archdiocese repeatedly, and they have referred us back to Eastside, saying it is a school matter.  Today, when we tried to get a reaction to Julia's statement, we were referred to attorney Mike Patterson.  When we tried to speak with Sister Mary Tracy, her office also referred us to attorney Mike Patterson.  When we found out there was going to be a meeting between the administration and Mike Patterson, we called him, and he said he would talk at the conclusion of the meeting, just after 8 p.m.

KIRO 7 placed several calls to Mike Patterson after 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.  Among the questions we want to ask is how the school reconciles the dismissal of Zmuda with the employment policy posted on their website.  It reads, "Eastside Catholic School does not discriminate on the basis of an employee’s or applicant’s race, religion, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other status or condition protected by local, state or federal law. Discrimination or harassment on the basis of any status or condition protected by local, state or federal law is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated at Eastside Catholic School."

Patterson did not answer any of the calls at the number he provided.  He did not return any calls either.  At 11 p.m., he sent a quick email, "Not ‘til tomorrow."