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Gay drama coach can stay at Eastside Catholic, offered a raise

Stephanie Merrow (left) plans to marry her partner of five years, Jenny, in August. (Image courtesy Stephanie Merrow)

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 five 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.

The prohibition on gay marriage still stands for full-time staff members at Eastside Catholic.

"Same sex marriages are not recognized by the Catholic Church as being acceptable," said Patterson. "Since we want to remain a Catholic identity compliant school, we are abiding by those requirements."

While she does not agree with Zmuda's dismissal, 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 told Ron and Don.

Despite the vocal protests by students, Mike Patterson said there have not been incidents of parents pulling their kids out of the private school, or withholding donations. "We're finding significant support for the fact that we stood up for our principals as a Catholic school."

But Merrow sees progress in the school's decision to retain her.

"I'm impressed with the fact that they are keeping me. I think it says that the kids made a difference."

Related:
Eastside Catholic staff member defends job status
Eastside Catholic staff member comes out on The Ron and Don Show

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