Eastside Catholic students protest firing of administrator

December 19, 2013

By Ari Cetron

Updated: Dec. 19, 2:31 p.m.

Eastside Catholic School students took to the streets Dec. 19 to protest the firing of an assistant principal.

Mike Zmuda, who has worked at the school for a little more than a year, was fired because he married a man in July.

Students at the school were told the school was pressured by the Archdiocese of Seattle to fire Zmuda after the marriage came to light, said 17-year-old Joseph Meehan, of Sammamish, a student at Eastside Catholic.

Representatives from the Archdiocese declined to comment, calling the issue a personnel matter.

Mike Patterson, a spokesman for the school, told The Seattle Times that by entering into a same-sex marriage, Zmuda violated teachings of the church, which he had agreed to follow.

Teachers at Catholic schools sign contracts that they will abide by the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which opposes and forbids same-sex marriage, Patterson told the Times.

“We just learned about it,” Patterson said of Zmuda’s marriage. “He understood he could no longer be employed there because of his current circumstances.”

A statement sent out by the school echoed these comments, saying Zmuda had violated an employment contract.

“Mark’s same-sex marriage over the summer violated his employment contract with the school. As a Catholic school, Eastside Catholic abides by the official teachings of the Catholic Church, and as such, the decision to discontinue his employment was determined by the Catholic Church. We are grateful for Mark’s exemplary service to Eastside Catholic and we wish him the very best,” read the statement.

Meehan said he understood the reasoning and that it was a difficult decision for the school, but he and hundreds of other students reject the logic. He said the school also teaches students to respect family, and kowtowing to the diocese does not send the right message.

“Trying to get in the archdiocese’s good favor means having to sacrifice too much,” Meehan said.

Suzanne Edwards, a parent of a current Eastside Catholic student and a recent graduate, blasted the firing. She said she had heard about it the night before through Twitter.

Edwards, of Issaquah, said the fact that Zmuda was gay had not been an issue for the school community.

“We knew. We knew he was married. We knew he was gay. It was none of our business,” she said.

She echoed Meehan’s comments that the school tries to teach students to accept other people, including those of different backgrounds.

Edwards noted that Zmuda was also a swim coach at the school, and praised his work.

“This man is one of the best things to happen to the school administration,” she said. “It’s shocking to me they would get rid of him because of pressure from the archdiocese. He’s a great man who is 150-percent professional. He’s hard-working and he gets stuff done.”

As word got around the school Dec. 19, students showed their opposition to firing Zmuda. Meehan estimated that more than half the student body held a sit-in to protest the firing.

Zmuda spoke to the students, Meehan said, and teared up as he explained he would no longer be working there. Soon after, students marched the length of the school’s driveway to 228th Avenue to protest the action.

They took to social media with the Twitter hashtag “KeepMrZ2013.” The effort was garnering words of support from across the plateau and from across the country. Students at other area Catholic schools such as Holy Names and Bishop Blanchet held sit-ins of their own in solidarity.

Zmuda’s last day was scheduled for Dec. 20, the last day before the school’s Christmas break.

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7 Responses to “Eastside Catholic students protest firing of administrator”

  1. Darlene on December 19th, 2013 4:19 pm

    Our son attends EC and is heartbroken by the school’s decision to fire Mr Zmuda. Mr Zmuda is a truly wonderful, caring individual who helped our family immensely this school year. It’s a travesty to lose him. We hope something can be done to rectify this. We hope we can keep this amazing man at our school.

  2. Michael Thompson on December 19th, 2013 4:57 pm

    I hope no one talks bad about Mr. Zumda. I am an ex-student and a friend. He is the nicest guy on the face of the earth, and he would do anything for any of his students. Although the school must follow standard procedure, they have lost a truly remarkable administrator and overall great guy. I wish him the best moving forward, and the next school will be lucky to have him. You da man Z!

  3. Taylor Selbach on December 19th, 2013 5:17 pm

    Mr.Zmuda was my teacher all throughout high school in South Florida he is still the most influential teacher I have ever and gave me such a positive outlook on myself I feel sorry that these students are missing out on the chance to learn from him.

  4. Keith Montgomery on December 20th, 2013 2:38 am

    “Mark’s same-sex marriage over the summer violated his employment contract with the school. As a Catholic school, Eastside Catholic abides by the official teachings of the Catholic Church, and as such, the decision to discontinue his employment was determined by the Catholic Church.”

    The teachings of the Catholic Church also oppose divorce. And birth control. Will the church instruct the school to fire all of the divorced teachers? Of course not. Divorce isn’t super-icky. How an institution can look the other way for centuries upon centuries while its clergy abuses children and yet dismiss a school administrator over his private life when all he has ever done in his workplace is his job is the ultimate hypocrisy.

    I praise these young Catholics for calling their church to task.

  5. Michael Sullivan on December 20th, 2013 11:21 am

    I don’t think there’s any hypocrisy here. By publicly engaging in gay marriage the employee is openly defying both the Church’s teaching and the contract he signed that outlined a code of conduct. If there was a teacher openly advocating birth control to students I don’t think the situation would be any different. If there was a teacher that divorced and remarried without an annulment, I don’t think the situation would be any different. Same thing for advocating female priests, abortion, etc.

    This is about as cut-and-dried a situation as you get. The fact that there is public outcry over this decision confuses me – prohibition on gay marriage is a very clear position of the Church. Though the Pope’s “Who am I to judge?” line is often quoted, folks should also take a look at some of his statements on gays in the Vatican – it is fairly clear that his view on gays in leadership positions aligns with what the Church believes. The mercy and forgiveness the Pope preaches lead to repentance – but only if the sinner wants to change his or her ways. That’s not the case here.

    It undermines the credibility of the Catechism of the Church if people in leadership positions (like the vice principal of a Catholic high school) openly defy major underpinnings of Church teaching. How can the Church credibly instruct the Catechism to young people if someone in a leadership position picks and chooses major positions on which they agree and disagree with? Why even have a Catechism in the first place if we simply align it with society’s current set of beliefs?

    You can disagree with the Church’s teachings on gay marriage but freedom of religion is an absolute right granted by the Constitution. If you don’t agree with the Church’s teachings on it, don’t send your kid there. Eastlake and Skyline are fine schools.

  6. Nole on December 21st, 2013 4:56 am

    I dont have a problem with the schools decision as long as the other employees of the Archdiocese in Seattle are also held to the same principle as the firing of a person based on his beliefs vs his performance. This would include employees who have ever been divorced. Are there any?????

  7. Kevin Owens on December 26th, 2013 1:42 pm

    At a time when the Catholic Church is experiencing a rebirth under Pope Francis it is absurd this behavior is taking place at Eastside Catholic. Focus on the goodness in people without passing judgement on a label provided by society. That employment contract needs to be updated. No one gives them the right to cherry pick Catholic doctrine as grounds for dismissal. Divorce , adultery, abortion, birth control get a free pass? Shame on you, is this representative of the Christian values you espouse to be teaching?

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