SPRINGFIELD (Delco) The principal of Cardinal O'Hara High School claims that she was fired this week because she rebuffed advances from a prominent member of the school community, but the Archdiocese of Philadelphia says she lost her job because of poor leadership and vision.
Marie Rogai's ouster Monday came one day after she sent an e-mail to parents of the Springfield, Delaware County, school alleging that she was being unjustly forced out.
"My career and my integrity are certainly worth fighting for and I intend to do so," Rogai, who in 2010 became the school's first female principal, wrote in her letter.
Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, described the firing as "a personnel decision" that had to do with Rogai's "leadership style and vision" rather than any specific complaint.
"It really is nothing more or less than a decision that the Office of Catholic Education made based on a variety of factors," Gavin said Tuesday. "They felt they needed new leadership there."
He said that Rogai had not been accused of any wrongdoing as principal of the school, which has more than 1,500 students.
Rogai did not answer a knock at her house Tuesday, and a spokesman for her attorney said she had no comment. Instead, he forwarded the 1,100-word letter Rogai had e-mailed to parents.
In it, the principal wrote that she was summoned to a meeting Friday with Carol Cary and Peter Balzano, the archdiocese's superintendent and director of secondary education.
At the meeting, Rogai wrote, Cary and Balzano told her that parents had complained about her leadership and the school's advisory board had voted to remove her as principal. The supervisors asked her to resign, and she refused.
Rogai's e-mail, written in part as an open letter to Cary, said that she never received any documentation of the parents' complaints about her or the board's vote.
The only specific complaints that it said Cary and Balzano relayed in their meeting were that she was "too direct" and did not smile enough.
Her e-mail also said that Cary and Balzano mentioned complaints about her from a man who is a prominent volunteer in the school community. The Inquirer is not identifying him because he could not be reached for comment.
Rogai, who is married and has a son, said in the letter that she "repeatedly" deflected unwanted physical contact from that man. It said she had repeatedly told her supervisor, Cardinal O'Hara president William McCusker, about those advances as well.
Gavin, the archdiocese spokesman, said that Cary's and Balzano's office had been unaware of Rogai's accusation of unwanted advances before the meeting Friday. "That's certainly something that the archdiocese is looking into right now," he said.
A woman who answered a call to Cary's home on Tuesday declined a request for comment. Balzano and McCusker could not be reached.
Rita Schwartz, who heads the union of Catholic school teachers in the archdiocese, said no teacher had filed a complaint about Rogai and she did not know why Rogai had been fired. As an administrator, the principal is not represented by the union.
Rogai has retained the law firm of McElhatton Foley. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the firm declined to say what Rogai's next steps might be.
In her e-mail to parents, Rogai quoted the mission statements of the school and the archdiocese, contended that her dismissal was "inconsistent with Christian principles of fairness," and asked, "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?"
Before becoming principal, Rogai taught social studies and Spanish. She had been at the high school since 1999.