Cardinal O'Hara parents complain over principal's ouster

Posted: November 15, 2013

Two days after Cardinal O'Hara High School principal Marie Rogai was abruptly fired, parents expressed frustration Wednesday at what they perceived as a lack of communication from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Superintendent of Secondary Schools Carol Cary told about 100 parents gathered in the school auditorium that the archdiocese felt the school needed a new leader right away.

"It couldn't have waited any longer," she said.

She said she would not answer any questions, but many stood up to shout questions anyway. They asked why Rogai was not dismissed during a summer, why the archdiocese had not named specific problems with her leadership, and why an advisory body that most of them had never heard of had the power to vote on her termination.

Cary said, "Feedback received over the past months from stakeholders across the Cardinal O'Hara community made it clear to us that a different style of leadership was needed."

She said that she was not at liberty to describe specific concerns.

"We don't make knee-jerk reaction decisions on people's careers, people's lives," Cary said. "There is a breaking point where you say, 'This community cannot endure this leadership style.'"

Several parents asked about reports that an advisory board had voted to recommend Rogai's termination. They had never heard of any advisory board at the school, they said.

William McCusker, president of Cardinal O'Hara, said that every school in the archdiocese has had a similar board since 2005. He said he appoints the members, and he pledged to post their names on the school's website on Thursday.

Parents said that they did not know how to answer their children's questions about why their principal was gone. One mentioned that Rogai also taught Spanish classes at the school, so the students in her classes had been shuffled into other classes.

"This is wrong, what you're doing to these kids. We are paying tuition," said one mother, who has sent five children to Cardinal O'Hara. "This is disgusting, the way it's been handled. The Catholic school system is supposed to be an extension of the Catholic Church and the Catholic community. I don't see Christ in any of this."

Many attendees applauded her words.

In an e-mail to parents the night before she was fired, Rogai said that she had been pressured to resign but would not step down. She charged that she had rebuffed unwanted physical contact from a prominent volunteer, and he had then complained to administrators about her.

The volunteer wrote a letter to archdiocese officials the next day. The note, provided by his lawyer, said, "I categorically deny any inappropriate physical contact with Ms. Rogai."

Cary did not bring up Rogai's e-mail in her remarks at Wednesday's gathering, which was a regularly scheduled Home and School Association meeting.

She praised the school. "This school community, the way some people have described it, it is a jewel in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia high school system. We are quite proud of it, and we want to continue that," she said.

jzauzmer@phillynews.com610-313-8207 @JulieZauzmer

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