Seattle Catholic school offers gay drama coach new contract

Here’s an interesting followup to the story that was sparking protests—but it appears this employee’s status and terms of employment are very different.


The Eastside Catholic drama coach who feared for her job after coming out as gay on The Ron and Don Show now says she is being embraced by the school’s administration and was even offered a raise.

Stephanie Merrow met with Principal Polly Skinner Thursday afternoon. She described the meeting in positive terms and said the Principal was “warm, welcoming, and kind.”

“They made me feel valued. She told me she was happy that I’m there,” said Merrow, who will continue working on the upcoming Eastside Catholic production of “Guys and Dolls,” set to debut in March.

The choreographer decided to go public with her sexuality following student protests over the firing of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda. Eastside Catholic argued he violated church teachings after marrying a man.

Merrow plans to wed her partner of 5 years in August. On Thursday, the school’s administration presented her with a contract to clarify her employment status.

“It’s very clear that I’m an independent contractor and that I’m seasonal,” Merrow explained. “They actually gave me a little raise.”

An attorney for Eastside Catholic, Mike Patterson, confirmed to KIRO Radio that a part-time worker like Merrow is not subject to the same policy that prompted the school to fire Zmuda.

“She’s contractual, she’s a consultant, she’s part-time, and she’s seasonal,” said Patterson.

And, the drama coach added this:

While she does not agree with Zmuda’s dismissal, Stephanie Merrow thinks the school should be allowed to adhere to Catholic teachings.

“I have my beliefs and values. They’re allowed to have their beliefs and values,” she said.

Meantime, the school yesterday released this statement: 

Dear EC Families,

The Eastside Catholic School Board of Trustees has prepared the following message and has been working to gather information to accurately report to you regarding Mark Zmuda’s personnel action. Through a collaborative process between Eastside Catholic School and the Archdiocese of Seattle, we have prepared this message to provide you with the most complete and up to date information we currently have available.

…All employees of Eastside Catholic School are required to sign an agreement in the ECS Employee Handbook, which states that “the public behaviors of our faculty and staff must at all times be consistent with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church.” The Church does not recognize same-sex marriage.

When Mr. Zmuda married his same-sex partner, the school administration was left with no acceptable alternative that would allow him to remain eligible for employment at Eastside Catholic School. Sister Mary Tracy had no choice other than to discuss resignation from ECS with Mr. Zmuda.

Sister Mary met with Mr. Zmuda, the school’s attorney Mike Patterson and Board Chair Gene Colin. In this discussion, Mr. Zmuda agreed that he would resign from Eastside Catholic School, effective December 20….

…… “ While he [Gene Colin] intends to remain a strong supporter, he said that he believes now is the right time for “new visionary leadership to emerge and direct Eastside Catholic forward.”

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