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June 3rd, 2009 BETH SLOVIC | News Stories
 

Not Safe For Work

Oregon Episcopal School’s headmaster resigns after racy emails surface.

     
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HANLY (L) AND HULSHOF-SCHMIDT (R)

The headmaster at Oregon Episcopal School resigned Monday after suggestive emails he sent from his work account to another man circulated among parents.

The emails sent in mid-May by OES headmaster Matthew Hanly created an uproar on campus last week, and revealed publicly for the first time the 51-year-old married man is gay. (The emails, obtained by WW, are printed below.)

But parents who were upset about the emails that surfaced said they were not angry the headmaster is gay or that he waited until now to reveal he had separated from his wife last fall.

Rather, they were troubled by Hanly’s leadership at the exclusive private school. And they said the latest embarrassment was just one more symptom of Hanly’s poor judgement during his nearly two-year tenure. They also faulted him for making decisions behind closed doors without adequate input from parents.

Late Monday night, the board of directors at the 140-year-old school in Raleigh Hills announced it had accepted Hanly’s resignation after initially resisting calls from some parents for the headmaster to step down. It would not say why, calling the situation a “personnel matter.” The board, in an earlier email to parents from May 28, said it was “distressed” by Hanly’s “lapse of judgment and his violation of the school’s email policies” but that it supported him “in keeping with the Episcopal spirit of inclusion, love, and mutual respect.”

Hanly—who earned $243,500 a year at OES when he joined the school in 2007, according to the most recent public records—previously worked at the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe, Mich. He resigned in September 2006 and left the school on June 30, 2007, according to local press accounts.

He separated from his wife, Laurie, last fall. The couple have two grown children.

As first reported last week at wweek.com, Hanly addressed the controversy for the first time May 27 in front of students and teachers. The next day he sent an apologetic email to parents of all 830 students at the school, where annual tuition runs from $12,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on students’ grade level and whether they live on campus.

“Recently someone hacked into my work email,” Hanly wrote. “An exchange of private messages to a friend was distributed to some members of the OES community yesterday. These messages were not in any way related to the school, but I wanted you to hear about this from me, rather than from someone else. Clearly, as a professional, I regret using my work email in this way.”

In that same May 28 email, Hanly also announced he was gay. “It is important for me to tell you that Laurie and I separated in September and since that time I have openly acknowledged to my immediate family that I identify as a gay man,” Hanly wrote. “I have been struggling with how and when it would be appropriate to share this very personal information with you. Unfortunately, an individual has taken that decision out of my hands.”

The email exchange that produced the flare-up included Michael Hulshof-Schmidt, headmaster of the one-year-old International High School of Portland. Hulshof-Schmidt, who used to live in Atlanta, declined to answer questions about this exchange that took place May 19 from both men’s work email accounts.

Hanly also declined to speak to WW, saying in a written statement that someone had hacked his email account to retrieve the messages. “I am a private person,” he wrote, “and it is appropriate that my personal life remain private.”

None of the parents who commented on WW’s original Web story was willing to speak on the record. Several teachers declined to discuss the matter as well.

“I do not want to damage the school any more than has already occurred,” one parent wrote in an email to WW. “I believe the best response at this point is to continue the discussion internally within the OES community.”

The Exchange


FACT: The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon blesses same-sex relationships in some of its churches.
 
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