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Montana Catholic Schools superintendent announces resignation

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Apr 25 2014 10:39:19 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Montana Catholic Schools Supeindendent Pat Haggarty has announced that he’s leaving his post for a new job after his replacement is hired. Haggarty did not tell Associated Press reporters the details of the new job, but he did say it’s a great opportunity.

Haggarty mentioned that his decision to leave is not in any way related to headline-grabbing personnel changes that happened this year. In February, Butte teacher Shaela Evenson was fired because diocese officials said she went against her contract by being pregnant and unwed. 

“When an employee willingly violates the terms of an employment contract, that employee self-selects to not teach in the Catholic school anymore,” said Haggarty in February.

It was a controversial decision.
 
“As the pope said, we need to have more mercy, and less church rules,” said Evenson’s friend Susan Hawthorne in Febraury.

Later that month, in Billings, Tarn Duff, a part-time assistant high school softball coach, said officials didn’t renew her contract because she had worked at Planned Parenthood. Haggarty had said that Planned Parenthood violates Catholic teachings.

When asked if the Diocese feels that the controversies played a role in Haggarties departure, Helena Diocese Communications Director Dan Bartleson said, “I think Mr. Haggarty would have considered those situations just a part of his job as superintendent.”

Haggarty didn't return voicemails left by NBC Montana Friday.

To gather local reaction to Haggarty’s departure, NBC Montana stopped by the annual BASH Missoula Catholic Schools fundraiser .  

“It's a good move for him. He's done a great job for our school system, overall, for Montana Catholic schools. He really has taken us a long way,” said St. Joseph School Principal Rick Hyland.

“He's been traveling the state of Montana putting several thousand miles on his vehicle every day. His kids are grown and in college, and so I thought for sure it would be a matter of time before he was off to other adventures, so I'm really happy for him and I'm looking forward to finding a good replacement. It may take a while, because it's a big job,” said Missoula Catholic Schools President Jeremy Beck.

The administrators NBC Montana spoke with declined to comment on how Haggarty handled the controversies in February, but NBC Montana did catch up with a parent who had thoughts on the matter.

“I think those controversies back in February were very difficult. It did raise a lot of discussion. It wasn't necessarily popular amongst the people, however, the decision I think was very well respected,” said Amy Downing.

Diocese officials say that Haggarty will continue as superintendent through the end of the school year. Bartleson says the diocese is sad to see Haggarty go, and that he was a great superintendent.