Eastside Catholic to 'welcome' engaged gay coach

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by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 9:19 AM

SAMMAMMISH -- Eastside Catholic High School President Sister Mary Tracy said Tuesday night freelance drama coach Stephanie Merrow, who is engaged to another woman, is "welcome" to continue working on campus, and that her employment was not discussed at a school board meeting.

Sister Tracy did indicate the board replaced board chair Gene Colin, who abruptly resigned Monday citing a need to "take a break".  Colin was involved in the dismissal of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, who lost his job for marrying another man, violating Catholic teachings.

Sister Tracy also told KING 5 the board discussed ways to prevent the current controversy from happening again, indicating the school would seek counsel from the Archdiocese and research other similar circumstances around the nation.

The situation with Merrow developed Monday, as she expressed a need to stand in solidarity with students protesting Zmuda's removal.

“I got several really good, long hugs,” Stephanie Merrow said.

She returned to Eastside Catholic High School on Tuesday afternoon where she is a freelance drama coach currently choreographing “Guys and Dolls”.

After watching news coverage of student protests after the termination of Mark Zmuda, she wasn’t sure what to expect. In an interview with a student, Zmuda says he was fired for marrying his boyfriend.

Merrow got engaged to her girlfriend of 5-years the day after Zmuda lost his job. She decided not to keep it a secret.

“It was the kids. I was extremely proud of and supportive of the kids and the way they handled this,” she said. “I’m doing this to support the kids, and what the kids are trying to do is get to the Pope and change the church.”

Merrow is not a contracted employee, so she may not fall under the same behavioral guidelines as a full-time administrator like Zmuda.

Unsure whether she still had a job Tuesday, Merrow taught as usual, with nothing out of the ordinary.

Earlier, her students met with her boss, Sister Mary Tracy, the school’s president.

“We don’t want the same thing to happen to Stephanie Merrow that happened to Mark Zmuda,” said senior Alex Kovar.

The students believe Sister Mary Tracy is sympathetic to their cause, and even allowed them to quote her as saying: “I look forward to the day where no individual loses their job because they married a person of the same sex,” read Julia Burns.

The students are planning a national “Mr. Z” day, asking people across the country to wear orange on January 31.


KING 5's Alison Morrow contributed to this report  

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