The ousted principal of Cardinal O’Hara High has now hired an attorney, and is beginning to tell her side of the story.
Marge Rogai was removed as principal of the school on Monday. She disputed the move, saying that she had not been informed of any reason for her dismissal.
Tuesday she hired the the Philadelphia law firm of McElhatton Foley, PC, to represent her.
Through her attorney Daniel McElhatton, Rogai indicated she will not be making any public comment. However her attorneys did indicate she was standing by the comments she made in an email she sent to the O’Hara community on Sunday.
Here is the text of most of that message:
Dear O’Hara Parents and Community:
As of this evening, I have been told that I am on Administrative Leave.
I have not been given any documentation of any wrong-doing.
Please see my statement (below) to Dr. Carol Cary, Superintendent of Secondary Education.
“Respect for the dignity of the worker is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching and the measure of justice in the workplace.”
- the Labor Management Agreement
“We are one in our Church’s teachings and in the variety of the gifts, services and ministries that we employ to help build up the Kingdom of God. We therefore commit ourselves to serve all our sisters and brothers … by working together with all people of good will for justice and peace.”
- the Mission Statement of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
“Building on a foundation of pride, excellence, and tradition, we challenge our students with a rigorous academic program, and provide diverse extra-curricular opportunities that foster a blending of talents, creating a community which advocates respect for self and others.”
- the Cardinal O’Hara Mission Statement
Before responding to your request, I reviewed and reflected on pertinent core values contained in the Labor Management Agreement and the Mission Statements for both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Cardinal O’Hara High School.
Please let me now summarize what has happened and where we are in the process of the Office of Catholic Education’s contact with me over the past 72 hours.
On Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, I received an email from you requesting a meeting at 3 p.m. on Friday with you and Pete Balzano. I spoke to my direct supervisor, Bill McCusker, to determine the reason for the meeting. Bill provided no explanation but alerted me that your purpose was to request my resignation from my position as Principal of Cardinal O’Hara and that I needed “to be out by Christmas.”
You and Pete arrived at the meeting and you stated that your purpose was to secure my resignation IMMEDIATELY. You stated that the Advisory Board of COHS, headed by Tom Goldsmith, had decided that I was an “ineffective leader.” You stated that this Board had conducted a vote on that issue. You also informed me that the Secretary of Catholic Education had received “complaints” from parents seeking to remove me as principal.
I was provided neither with documentation of any such vote by the Advisory Board nor with copies of the complaints allegedly seeking my removal. In fact, I was provided with no documents whatsoever.
More troubling than not being provided any documentation is that neither the Advisory Board nor the parents hired me. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Office of Catholic Education selected me for this position over three years ago, following five years of exemplary, administrative service at Cardinal Dougherty High School.
Carol, you stated in the meeting that I am a “solid educator.” In fact, you personally offered me the position of Associate Superintendent on June 7th of this year.
I requested to see the statements that were causing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to request my resignation and was told that, despite the fact that you were making this request for my resignation, that neither you nor Pete had received any such allegations and you both denied knowledge of their content.
As the first female Principal of Cardinal O’Hara, I have made every effort to be as inclusive and responsive as possible. To now be pressured to resign - without so much as an opportunity to review any materials that are being utilized to smear me - is unprofessional, unethical and inconsistent with Christian principles of fairness.
When you told me that the “criticisms” included that I am “too direct and don’t smile enough,” it was clear that there are no substantive reasons for me to resign. There are no allegations of improper conduct; there are no allegations of financial problems; and there are no allegations of a scandal of any nature. What is obvious to me is that there is somebody who has the ear and access to the persons with the responsibility to hire and fire, who wants me out for his own petty reasons.
Ask yourself what you would do in a similar circumstance? If I resign, as “requested,” I would be publicly perceived as having done something egregious and wrong. While you, the Office of Catholic Education, and the Faith in the Future Foundation might say that this is not accurate, what will the potential employers think when I seek a new position? You and the decision makers are on the verge of ruining a career. My career. For this to happen in this manner at this time in the history of the Church in Philadelphia is outrageous and wrong.
In fact, you had the gall and audacity to tell me that you expected that I would resign on the spot and send a blast email to the parents announcing my resignation. Would you make a life-altering decision without consulting your spouse or family? Certainly not - and I should not have been requested to do so either.
On Friday, you received an email from Bill McCusker, who is my direct superior and who works with me on a daily basis. That email confirms what you also confirmed: I have always been a loyal, honest and competent employee, willing to do everything necessary to help educate the young men and women in my care.
What lesson will this send to the students? Will they be learning the lesson that hard work, dedication and commitment are their own reward? Or will the message be that some people have more “pull” than others? That it is more important to acquiesce to those who have the ear of decision makers than it is to do your job well?
You said on several occasions that you and Pete did not agree with what you were asking but were only the messengers. That is sad.
On Saturday, I received an email from Bill McCusker (that included his email to you on Friday) stating, among other things, that the Advisory Board has “lost sight” of its advisory role. I reiterate that this Board and any parents who may be railroading me out of a hard-earned career are not the parties who hired me, but are clearly the instrumentality of my proposed dismissal without affording me with even minimal due process, if that is the course chosen by the Office of Catholic Education and the Faith in the Future Foundation.
My career and my integrity are certainly worth fighting for and I intend to do so. Whether it is with a serious and responsible dialogue with my employers, or otherwise, I am committed to this course.
The Archdiocese and the Foundation can attempt to fire me, if they choose, but I cannot and will not resign.
No matter what happens, I am still here to serve Cardinal O’Hara and its community.
UPDATE: I’ve heard from Ken Gavin, director of communications for the archdiocese. He says there’s no mystery to the change in the principal’s job at Cardinal O’Hara High School.
He referred to it as a “personnel” matter.”
“I don’t think this is a mystery,” Gavin said. “It’s a personnel decision by OCE (Office of Catholic Education) to go in a different leadership direction.”
You can read the full statement issued by the archdiocese below.
The principal at Cardinal O'Hara High School is out, but the reason why remains a mystery.
The archdiocese sent a letter to parents on Monday confirming that Principal Marie Rogai was "no longer with the school." You can read the text of the letter at the bottom of this blog item.
But in a letter sent to O'Hara parents, Rogai confirmed she had been placed on "administrative leave," but indicated she had not been given any other reason for the move.
Cardinal O'Hara, located on Sproul Road in Springfield Township, is one of the largest high schools in the archdiocese, with more than 1,500 students in grades 9-12.
In a letter sent to Dr. Carol Cary, Archdiocese Superintendent of Secondary Education, Rogai said she was informed last Thursday of a meeting to be held on Friday, and that she learned the meeting with Cary and another supervisor was to request her resignation.
Rogai said she was given no documentation for her dismissal, but was told that "the Secretary of Catholic Education had received 'complaints' from parents seeking to remove me as principal.'" She indicated a vote had been taken on the matter by the Advisory Board of Cardinal O'Hara High School.
"I was provided neither with documentation of any such vote by the Advisory Board nor with copies of the complaints allegedly seeking my removal," Rogai wrote. "In fact I was provided with no documents whatsoever."
The archdiocese has not commented, other than to confirm that Rogai was out.
"This personnel decision was made with the best interest of the school and its mission in mind," wrote Cary. "We are grateful to Ms. Rogai for her service to Catholic education but have decided that a change in leadership is necessary at this time."
At least one parent contacted me overnight and expressed dismay at the move, going so far as to say Rogai was being "railroaded."
The archdiocese indicated it will conduct a search for a successor, with assistant principals and Associate Superintendent Pete Balzano handling day-to-day operations at the school.
Rogai was appointed principal at O'Hara in August 2010, the first woman principal in the school's history. Prior to that she had been assistant principal of Academic Affairs at Cardinal Dougherty High School. Prior to that she served as interim department chair for Modern Languages at Dougherty. She is a longtime Spanish teacher, and currently taught Advanced Placement Spanish courses at O'Hara, according to the school website.
She is a graduate of St. Joseph's University, and also has a Master's in secondary education from St. Joe's.
O'Hara opened in September 1963 with 1,738 freshmen and sophomores. Enrollment reached a peak of 3,940 students in 1967.
The school is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
We'll be updating the story throughout the day. Check back to DelcoTimes.com for updates.
Here is the full text of the letter sent to the O'Hara community by Dr. Carol Gary, superintendent for secondary schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia:
Nov. 11, 2013
Dear Parents and Guardians of the Cardinal O’Hara High School Community,
Effective immediately, Marie Rogai will no longer be serving as principal at Cardinal O’Hara High School. This personnel decision was made with the best interest of the school and its mission in mind. We are grateful to Ms. Rogai for her service to Catholic education but have decided that a change in leadership is necessary at this time.
The Office of Catholic Education is dedicated to fostering an environment where each high school retains its unique identity while striving to be the best secondary education institution in its area where young men and women grow personally and academically in an atmosphere centered on Jesus Christ. The course of action being taken now will better allow Cardinal O’Hara High School to meet those goals.
I will convene a committee of school leaders and representative stakeholders to commence a principal search. The Cardinal O’Hara High School community is grounded in pride, excellence, and tradition. Together we will work through this leadership transition and focus on the future of Cardinal O’Hara High School as we embark on another 50 years of excellence.
In the interim period, the assistant principals will manage the day-to-day operations of the school along with Mr. Pete Balzano, Associate Superintendent, who will be on site on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays to assist and support the students, administration, faculty, and staff.
Thank you for making the choice to send your child to Cardinal O’Hara. We value the decision that you have made to invest in your child’s future through a Catholic education. We are committed to providing a comprehensive education rooted in our Catholic faith and we value your continued feedback and unwavering support.
Please know of the support of the Office of Catholic Education and of our commitment to the parents, students, faculty, and staff of Cardinal O’Hara.
God bless you and your families.
Sincerely in Christ,
Dr. Carol Cary
Superintendent for Secondary Schools