The board president of the private Catholic school where parents have railed against the firing of a married lesbian teacher has invited them to meet as soon as this week with trustees at the school.

In an e-mail, Andrew McCloskey, president of Waldron Mercy Academy's trustees, wrote that he had heard from many parents since the June 22 dismissal of religious studies director Margie Winters and was committed to doing all he could to heal the community.

"It's hard for many to understand how an institution that Margie so selflessly served for eight years could dismiss a wonderful educator and woman of mercy," he wrote.

Until now, school officials had not discussed Winter's firing, despite parents' anger and demands for answers.

In his e-mail, McCloskey expressed sympathy and appreciation for Winters, who maintains that administrators knew she was married but fired her after two parents complained to the school and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He called her firing "heartbreaking."

McCloskey also said he knew many parents were concerned about the school's ability to continue "its nurturing, inclusive, and aspirational environment."

His e-mail, sent over the weekend, came as anger over the firing continued to simmer.

Enraged parents have held a vigil, supported Winters on social media, and besieged principal Nell Stetser, who has met privately with some. A group of alumni also has threatened to withhold donations and urge others to do the same if Winters is not offered reinstatement.

The parent meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday, and July 29 at 7 p.m. in the school library.

For some parents, they are long overdue.

"For me, it was exactly what I was looking for," said Katie Culver, who said she was considering sending her three children to another school, but would attend one of the gatherings. "I am not happy about the decision that was made about Margie. On top of that I'm not happy with the way the whole thing was handled."

She and others have asked school officials to hold a town-hall meeting with parents. Culver said she wants to ask trustees how they are appointed and why parents are not on the board.

McCloskey did not return a call to discuss the meetings. Sheila King, a public relations specialist hired by the school, said trustees could not discuss the firing publicly, since it is a personnel issue.

As for why it took a month for McCloskey to call the meetings, King said, "He felt the time was right now."

In the e-mail, McCloskey, an alumnus and parent of Waldron students, wrote that he was committed to working with all parties "to ensure that this school remains a beacon of mercy, kindness and love."

He added, "When the larger world tests our principles, it does not mean we should abandon them, but rather embrace them more deeply."

The e-mail came days after 27 alumni wrote to the Sisters of Mercy, the religious order that sponsors the school, threatening to withhold gifts to the school and to urge others to follow suit if Winters is not offered reinstatement.

In their letter, obtained by The Inquirer, the alumni described themselves as "concerned, disappointed, and outright angered," and accused the nuns and Stetser of being "compromised by the archdiocese's outside pressures."

The Catholic Church maintains that employees of its schools, hospitals, and other organizations must follow church teaching, which is opposed to gay marriage.

DignityUSA, a group that supports Catholic LGBT people, said about three dozen gay teachers had been fired from Catholic schools nationwide in recent years.

Winters' firing has also rippled beyond the school's Merion campus and the region. This week, the Christian organization Faithful America started a petition calling for Winters to be reinstated. The group said it plans to deliver it to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.


Inquirer staff writer Chris Brennan contributed to this article.