One would expect a compelling reason for a school principal to resign or be fired on back-to-school night. So parents at St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Perry were surprised Thursday when the Rev. Chris Reising dropped the bombshell news that the school’s popular principal, Eddie Diaz of Perry, was no longer working for the K-through-eight school.
“I must inform you,” Reising wrote in a letter given to parents as they arrived at the back-to-school night, “that Mr. Diaz is no longer employed at St. Patrick’s School. I realize that this comes at an inopportune time.”
Reising offered no compelling reason for the sudden and “inopportune” departure of Diaz at the start of the school year.
The parish priest said he was taking “the necessary steps to find someone to serve as an interim principal” and was “forming a search committee consisting of multiple stakeholder groups to identify our next principal.”
Reising could not be reached for comment Friday. He is not expected to return to Perry until Tuesday, according to church staff.
Anne Marie Cox, communications director for the Des Moines Diocese, said, “Because there’s a personnel matter, I can’t speak to the specific situation, although we want to thank Mr. Diaz for his service and wish him well in future endeavors.”
The superintendent of the Des Moines Dioceses School System, Dr. Tracy Bonday, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Diaz accepted the position of principal at St. Pat’s at the start of the 2016-2017 school year after teaching social studies at Perry High School for six years.
“I want to thank the parishioners, students, staff and supporters of St. Patrick’s School for giving me the ability to lead the school,” Diaz said Friday. “I am proud of all the progress we were able to make to offer our students a faith-based education in one of the most caring environments I have ever been a part of.”
Diaz said his aim in the short term “is to continue to be active in the community and to help out at Perry Public Schools as a private individual. I just want to emphasize that I had a really good year and a good time, and I appreciate the support from the families, and hopefully I can continue to support their children in some way.”
Diaz said he intends to stay in the education field.
“Definitely,” he said. “That’s my passion. I’m an instructor at DMACC, so that’s one place I will keep my passion going.”
Diaz, the son of Mexican immigrants who settled first in California and later in Iowa, was 16 when he came to Perry. He graduated from Perry High School in 1997 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1998 to 2005. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Iowa State University in 2005 and a master’s degree in education from Drake in 2009.
While at PHS, Diaz taught economics, U.S. history and U.S. government. He was also the National Honor Society advisor, Mock Trial assistant coach and a teacher leader.
Last June, Diaz discussed his goals for St. Patrick’s School with ThePerryNews.com.
“Over the last two years,” he said, “as I worked to obtain my degree in educational leadership, I used St. Patrick’s School as the basis of several of my major projects. In one of my projects, I developed a mission and vision process that I plan on following during my first year as the principal at St. Patrick’s.”
Speaking of employment contracts in general, Cox, the diocese communications director, said that “typically severance is done at the local level. Father Reising and the faculty and staff are eagerly looking forward to a good school year.”
There are currently about 150 students attending St. Patrick’s School from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. St. Patrick’s is one of 17 schools operated by the Diocese of Des Moines. In the 2014-2015 school year, 6,357 students attended those schools, which employed 430 full-time and 56 part-time teachers, generating a ratio of 15 students per teacher.