Eastside Catholic alum asks board to step down

Mary Helen Nuxoll Kopczynski, an Eastside Catholic school alumna, asked the school's board of directors to resign at the Feb. 6 board meeting.

Nuxoll, class of 1996 and the school’s first female student body president, said there was some "snickering" from those in attendance, with disbelief from some that she made such a bold suggestion.

The alumni are turning the heat up, she said, because they are the only ones who are immune from any sort of punishment in continuing their call for former vice principal Mark Zmuda to get his job back.

Zmuda was fired from the Catholic school Dec. 19, 2013 when it was revealed he had married his gay partner last summer. The school's president and CEO, Sister Mary Tracy resigned Jan. 20, as did the board chair.

Principal Polly Skinner is leading the school for now, and board officers Brad Bastian and Tom Padilla are co-chairs of the board. Eastside Catholic is conducting a nationwide search for a new president.

"One of the original founding board members (John Becker) told the board they'd lost their way," Nuxoll Kopczynski said.

She said he (Becker) told the board they never intended for the school to be a doctrinal Catholic school. She said when they hired Tracy, it really took a doctrinal direction.

Along with Nuxoll Kopczynski and her husband, Jeffrey ("Red") Kopczynski, 2006 alumnus Corey Sinser have been leading the charge for a change.

Sinser said Bastian and Padilla tag-teamed throughout the meeting, holding firm to their stance that Zmuda is not coming back. Sinser is pleased that they are conducting a nationwide search for a new president.

In a letter to the board, Sinser said Tracy "was not the right individual to lead the school, and that she inspired no confidence in students, teachers, parents or alumni, and instilled an intransigent, draconian, and intimidating culture that only served to distance herself from school constituents."

Sinser said one teacher of 30 years testified that in the past few years, the teachers have not been respected and that the school was in flux. The teacher also testified that they had been mistreated for many years.

"It's a different place," Sinser said. "I love Eastside Catholic, and I'm concerned about my alma mater."

Sinser said there is a real disconnect at the school right now.

Jeffrey Kopcynski challenged the board by mentioning that some of the staff were divorced, so why did they pick this topic to discriminate?

Sinser said expectations regarding Catholic doctrinal practices need to be spelled out for employees.

"The understanding of public v. private with regard to perceived transgressions against the church has never been explained," Sinser wrote. "If it is the goal of the school administration to expect all employees to conduct themselves in pre-Vatican II fashion, so be it; they just owe it to the staff to be honest about it. Likewise, if they would rather encourage a more Jesuit 'ask for forgiveness, not permission' attitude toward one's relationship with the church, that too must be explained."

The Kopczynskis, who now live in New York, have flown in twice to attend meetings on the Zmuda situation. Nuxoll Kopcynski said she got the impression that some of the board members feel they don't have a choice but to go along with the decisions that have been made, and that a few of them disagree, but are too scared to say how they really feel.

They feel alumni, teacher and parent voices needs to be on the board, which now is primarily made up of business executives with no background in academia.

Nuxoll Kopcynski said the alumni are not giving up until Zmuda is rehired.


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