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Parents rally around ousted Montco Catholic school teacher

Former Waldron Mercy Academy teacher Margie Winters met with parents last night at a Fairmount restaurant.

People lined up to hug Margie Winters (right) after last night's meeting at Jack's Firehouse. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
People lined up to hug Margie Winters (right) after last night's meeting at Jack's Firehouse. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)Read more

FORMER WALDRON Mercy Academy teacher Margie Winters led a prayer last night for 200 school parents who gathered at a Fairmount restaurant to rally behind the ousted teacher.

"It felt like love" in the room, said parent Nancy Houston, whose husband, Mick Houston, owns Jack's Firehouse, where the meeting was held.

Winters' prayer was in the "spirit of mercy, tolerance and acceptance," Houston said. "It was who we are."

Winters was dismissed June 22 from the Catholic elementary school in Merion Station, Montgomery County, because she is married to a woman, according to an Inquirer report published Monday. Two parents complained to the school and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia about her marriage and the school asked her to resign, the paper reported. She refused and was fired.

An email was sent from Waldron's principal, Nell Stetser, to parents on Friday before the July 4 weekend and many families didn't learn about it until this week.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 on June 26 that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.

Winters hugged other parents when she entered the restaurant with her wife, but she declined requests to speak to the media.

"People are angry, but want to use that anger in a constructive way for change in the community," said parent Catherine Califano, designated spokeswoman for the parents. "We support Marge."

The meeting became "a forum to hear facts and to decide what they want to do [going] forward," Califano said. She called the gathering "a brainstorming session" with committees to be formed at a future time.

Miriam Hill, whose son attends the school, said Winters "was a wonderful teacher who made our children better people and our families better families.

"I don't think there was anyone in that room who agreed with this decision," Hill said. "We want to see it changed."

An email from a group of parents to the rest of the Waldron community was circulated Monday, and many parents were upset with Stetser's decision, calling Winters a dedicated and inspiring educator. By Monday night, a Facebook page, "Stand With Margie," had more than 4,300 likes last night and a Twitter account with the handle @StandWithMargie was started.

Diana Moro, parent of a Waldron graduate and of a current student, said the Waldron community "needed the chance to talk about how they felt about the disappointment of getting that email and finding out that Margie had been fired," Moro said. "There were all the stages of grief discussed tonight . . . This is a process that this community is going through."