The principal of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School abruptly resigned Tuesday after an alleged dispute with the church's new pastor.
In a letter sent to church families, Rickey Harris said he felt he'd been disrespected and had his integrity questioned by Fr. William O'Donnell.
The far south side Chicago church, on the 9800 block of South Throop Street, is the same parish where Fr. Dan Mallette is fighting to maintain residence.
"The unfortunate events of these last few weeks have caused me to pause and reflect on who I am, my purpose, and whether or not I will allow myself to be disrespected, my integrity questioned, and reputation that I have worked so hard to build to be stained with deception and untruths," wrote Harris.
O'Donnell said -- "very clearly and without any kind of hesitancy" -- that the two events were unrelated.
Many parents expressed shock and disappointment when learning of Harris' resignation.
"We just got to know the principal. He was a good dude," said parent Anthony Anderson. "My kids are sad about it, so I'm kind of sad about it."
The 80-year-old Mallette, who has refused to vacate the rectory in which he's lived for decades, was still at the church on Tuesday and said he was upset by the news.
"Terrible. He's a wonderful guy. Terrible. Terrible. Terrible," he said.
Asked about his successor, Mallette preferred to answer in song, breaking into a rendition of Plastic Jesus.
For his part, O'Donnell acknowledged accountability but expressed optimism that he could work with the church to sort out the issues.
"It would be very arrogant of me to think that I wasn't somehow part of the problem, that perhaps I didn't do this correctly or there was a better way to handle some of this," he told NBC Chicago on Tuesday evening.
A current teacher at St. Margaret, Saul Ramirez Mondragon, is acting as principal on an interim basis, according to Sr. Mary Paul McCaughter, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Harris' full letter to parents is below:
October 2, 2012
Dear St. Margaret of Scotland Family:
Some of life’s greatest lessons are learned in the face of trial and challenge. Every individual is equipped with certain characteristics which make them who they are. Some of them are good, and some of them are not. In any case, I have learned not to allow the characteristics of others to determine who I am. The unfortunate events of these past weeks have caused me to pause and reflect on who I am, my purpose, and whether or not I will allow myself to be disrespected, my integrity questioned, and reputation that I have worked so hard to build to be stained with deception and untruths. Therefore, because of the lack of support given by the Office of Catholic Schools during my recent suspension by Fr. William O’Donnell, newly appointed pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland, I have decided to render my resignation as principal of St. Margaret of Scotland School effective Tuesday, October 2, 2012.
The most disconcerting part about this entire ordeal is that the person responsible for this level of disregard for the lives of the staff, students, and parents is one who we are taught to consult in times of crisis – the church! As one who has grown up catholic, I have learned to live my life with my faith rooted in God, while at the same time, I have grown to have faith in the church. I am thoroughly saddened that I have indirectly been forced to make this decision because of the impact that my decision will have on the many lives that I wholeheartedly serve – even as this commitment was questioned by Fr. O’Donnell. Unfortunately, because of being blindsided by the initial suspension, I am quite uncertain of any future events by him. Thus, I must use wisdom and protect myself.
Thank you with all my heart for your support, commitment and trust of me as your leader. I am thoroughly sorry that it has come to this. I ask that you keep me in your prayers as I will definitely keep you in mine. Please know I will keep each student, faculty and staff member, parent and friend very close to my heart.
Lastly, I ask you to continue to develop the lives of our young people by creating a school, “Where thinking is critical, living is global and loving universal.” I will forever love St. Margaret of Scotland School and I love you!!!
In pursuit of excellence,