Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ousted O'Hara principal hires attorney, puts out her side of story

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.

Carol: “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.

Marie

No matter what happens, I am still here to serve Cardinal O’Hara and its community.

Thank you,v Mrs. Rogai

* 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.

*

Earlier:

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

15 Comments:

Blogger SCHEUERMOM said...

Sounds like what happened at archbishop Carroll a few years back. No notice no explanation

November 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard she was no good for the school! She lead by the philosophy "teach with fear!" O'Hara deserves more!

November 12, 2013 at 9:21 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was just an awful woman and I fully believe the reason our chile teacher was removed from administration. She was a bully and just awful for the school. Perhaps now o'hara can become the school it should be. If only it can repair the damage she did the past 3 years.

November 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the paper is taking one side (no suprise there).

She should have never been in that position to begin with at O'Hara.

The students deserve better. At least the administration put the students first to part ways.

O'Hara needs stronger leadership. I am looking forward to seeing that happen.

November 12, 2013 at 2:09 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should have sent your kids to Bonner-Prendie!!!

November 12, 2013 at 3:20 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pride, Excellence, Tradition...football and cheerleading..."

November 12, 2013 at 3:42 PM 
Blogger Your Havertown Realtor said...

A lot of Anonymous comments. Guess it was the parents.

November 12, 2013 at 8:21 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my!!

November 12, 2013 at 8:26 PM 
Anonymous CJ said...

A lot of anonymous comments. Too bad they are not willing to share their names.
Catholic education started with Nuns and priests at the helm, in case you have forgotten, with them came fear, believe me, these kids today need that. If this principal was doing that God bless her for trying to get these kids on the right track.

November 13, 2013 at 7:51 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has she ever been convicted of DUI or hitting multiple parked cars on the way home from a
restaurant?

November 13, 2013 at 5:03 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No I don't think it was her with the DUI...He's still has his job. The reason people are anonymous is because they have kids that are students there and do not want reprisals.There are no nuns and priests running anything up there anymore thats long ago. They have replaced them with ineffective leaders such as her and her partner the disciplinarian who should be fired also.
I personally dealt with both of them, the kids deserve much better. We are the paying customers and the parents should be heard.

November 13, 2013 at 6:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I myself graduated from O'hara 30 yrs ago and now my kids attend the school. I don't know much however I DO know that a lot of O'hara's "traditions" were changed/not allowed when Rogai took office! We sacrifice to send our children there and we WANT them to experience the same, on-going "traditions" that we had. This whole thing is a mess however Rogai just didn't fit with this community! She may be honest, hard-working, etc but if she doesn't fit the puzzle, then its time for a change. Unfortunately she doesn't understand that in PA, employers can fire employees for NO REASON! Happens everyday! She just has to accept it and move forward with her life! Also leave Bill McCusker alone! He made a mistake, owned it and pd the price! He is one of the best things about this school! Kids and parents alike LOVE him and he is still well-respected + admired by my family + friends + most of the community. He is a human and human beings do make mistakes- as long as we learn from them and he has, believe that!

November 14, 2013 at 12:16 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because she was trying to make some changes from the way things were done 30 years ago doesn't mean she should lose her job. These Delaware County parents that are resistant to change are ridiculous. I don't want my kids to have the exact experiences I have had, I want them to have BETTER experiences! I think that is what Mrs. Rogai was trying to accomplish.

November 14, 2013 at 7:42 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Changes she was trying to make were bad for the school, she was against everything that was a tradition up there. she was against athletics, everything that the school was built on, she bullied teachers it was "her way or the highway" She got what she deserved...how's it feel? as far as Mccusker yea he payed the price for his mistake but he fell asleep at the wheel and let her ruin everything there. Shame on him. They have alienated all the fielder schools. There is just so much to list you just don't know unless you are involved in the school or your kids are involved. Those who are not involved in the school or athletics just don't get it.

November 17, 2013 at 12:33 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been following this story for a couple of weeks now, nd I feel like it might be time to offer my $0.02.
Based just on what has been reported in the various local news outlets, it seems like Ms. Rogai has gotten a raw deal. Yes, this is a state where a person can be terminated from employment without cause, but it is tradional to offer at least an off-the-record reason in cases like this. Speaking of tradition, the anonymous poster who spoke of the principal being "against athletics, everything the school was built on" should probably check their priorities. Athletics are, and should always be, secondary to education. My understanding was that the school was built on the principles of Catholic ideology and quality education...I guess things have changed with a couple of decent football teams. If this poster is a parent of a child enrolled in O'Hara, I think we see what the actual issue might be: preoccupation with nonessential extacurricular activities.
I believe that a mistake was made in terminating this woman, and although it is too late to reinstate her, I hope her lawyer secures a generous settlement for her in the coming months. Yet another check that the archdiocese can cut for malfeasance.

Kevin R McNamee, class of 1998
(anonymity is for sissies)

November 21, 2013 at 1:56 PM 

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