The proverbial beehive that was kicked over Thursday with the announcement of the end of Eddie Diaz’s tenure as principal at St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Perry was still buzzing Sunday, with supporters continuing to collect signatures on a petition asking the Des Moines Diocese either to intervene or reverse the decision.
The popular Diaz served one year as principal and was, by all accounts, well-liked by staff, students and parishioners.
Parents gathered at the school gym Thursday evening for a back-to-school event and were shocked to be handed a letter from the parish priest, the Rev. Chris Reising, with the news that Diaz would no longer be the school’s principal.
“I must inform you,” Reising wrote in the letter, “that Mr. Diaz is no longer employed at St. Patrick’s School. I realize that this comes at an inopportune time.”
As the shock of the announcement began to wear off, anger and confusion began to set in, with more than a few parents of students upset at the timing of the decision and demanding an explanation for Diaz’s ouster.
Andrea Menz Tunink and Cathie Sucher were among several parents of St. Patrick’s students who helped organize the petition drive, with the intention of turning the lists over to the diocesan office in Des Moines Wednesday. Organizers hoped to collect 800 signatures, but by mid-afternoon Sunday it appeared as if that number would be easily surpassed.
Menz Tunink said she hoped the public understood that anyone supporting Diaz was welcome to sign the petition, that they do not need to have students in the K-8 school nor be parishioners of the church.
“Anyone who knows Eddie and his character is welcome to sign,” she said.
Signatures were collected after all three weekend Masses at the church, with Ben’s Five and Dime, Alice’s Haus Dressin, Casa de Oro, the El Rey Market and the Caboose to continue offering an opportunity for supporters or friends of Diaz to sign. Names were added to the list at Saturday’s Public Safety Event in the Hy-Vee parking lot and again Sunday in the lot in front of Snap Fitness.
A common refrain heard from those signing, Menz Tunink and Sucher said, is the recognition of the reciprocal love between student body and Diaz.
“This was handled very poorly. The timing is awful and then to give us a letter and have no one there to explain the situation or answer questions just made it worse,” Sucher said Sunday. “We hope this (the petition drive) will make it clear how much support Eddie has.”