Principal’s resignation roils Higley |

Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
10 Min Read

A Governing Board member has criticized Higley Unified School District administration for not being forthcoming with parents over a popular elementary school principal’s resignation.

An angry group of parents, staff and even the wife and the mother of former Power Ranch Principal Chris Reuter packed the Nov. 15 board meeting, bashing the board and district.

`“I am very disappointed with the performance of Higley Unified School District in response to the issues surrounding the resignation of Mr. Reuter (at the direction of legal counsel),” board Anna Van Hoek said in a lengthy released statement Nov. 22.

“I completely understand the frustration from our teachers, parents and students who were not provided with an explanation in a timely manner, which allowed for a lot of false information and rumors to be spread all over social media.”

When asked for a comment from the district about Van Hoek’s criticism, the district released copies of three letters it sent to parents regarding Reuter.

“Mr. Reuter’s resignation is unrelated to a previous investigation related to former staff member Aaron Dunton,” the letter read. “The criminal charges filed against Aaron Dunton did not pertain to any acts or omissions that occurred during his employment with the district.

“We believe the rumors that these two events are linked originated from a tweet by an online activist, amplified by other social media users and the local media.”

The unsigned letter added that Reuter and the district “worked collaboratively” on his resignation.

Dunton was arrested in June 2022 over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with two students. Dunton, who had resigned before his arrest, taught at Power Ranch from July 16, 2015, to May 28, 2021, and was one of the alleged victim’s teacher. He transferred to Higley High in July 2021.

In. July 2022, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against Dunton and sent the case back to Gilbert Police for more work.

Van Hoek said that on Nov. 9, she learned that Reuter submitted his resignation and that it was on the Nov. 15 consent agenda that the board approved.

“That was the extent of the board’s involvement in his resignation,” she said. “The matter was managed by our Human Resources team and Administration prior to the board vote.”

She said that Reuter’s resignation was not related to the board’s closed-door discussions on Aug. 23 and Oct. 30 regarding the turnover rate at Power Ranch.

“Despite legal limitations on the disclosure of specific personnel matters, I will always share information transparently within the bounds of the law,” Van Hoek said. “I value transparency and recognize the importance of open communication with our community.

“While we understand the community’s curiosity and concerns regarding Mr. Reuter’s departure, I want to emphasize that personnel matters are extremely sensitive and, by law, cannot be disclosed in detail. I urge the district to provide some type of information without having to disclose the actual reason for the resignation.”

That might provide some closure for those at the meeting earlier this month who felt the district left them in the dar.

Many dressed in red in support of Power Ranch.

“I feel like we’ve kind of uncovered a pretty serious problem in the school district this week and it’s a lack of communication and a lack of transparency,” William Blankenship said. “My school currently doesn’t have a principal. I wasn’t told that by the school.

“I don’t know how long he’s been gone and I have no idea why he left. And I think at the end of the day, this institution is built on trust. We as parents we trust you with our children and ultimately I feel you are responsible to us the parents and that only works when you communicate with us.”

He said that district should disregard any legal advice to stay silent on the issue and demanded more transparency and communication from the district. Some of the speakers asked for the board to reinstate Reuter.

“If you were in fact given legal counsel to keep secrets from parents I would ask that you reconsider that legal advice,” Blankenship said; “because anybody who is promoting the idea of keeping secrets from parents really has no place in our community.”

He said that parents want to know that the board is working to figure out how and why the resignation happened and to prevent aa recurrence of any similar situation.

“You have shown that no matter what the issue is we are going to get silence,” Blankenship told the board. “It doesn’t matter if an instructor gets caught selling drugs in a classroom, you’re not going to tell us. If a teacher is abusing a student, you’re not going to tell us…. As a parent that is terrifying. And that is not a room I can send my children to.”

District administration sent a letter to parents Nov. 2 notifying them that Reuter would not be available and that Higley Virtual Academy Principal John Dolan was stepping in to help with Power Ranch.

Lindsey Taylor-Reuter blasted the district for not stepping forward and allowing rumors to run rampant about her husband.

She said that the couple’s two daughters attend Power Ranch and are exceptional students, listing their accomplishments.

“These are the types of children you want growing up in your school district,” she said. “Yet these girls will not be growing up as Higley students due to the concerning and unwarranted actions being taken to remove Mr. Reuter, their father from Power Ranch Elementary.

“Additionally, the disgusting accusations being made by members in the community about their father have created a nightmare situation of lies and rumors, which has damaged his reputation.”

Taylor-Reuter, who on her Facebook page urged people to show up to speak at the meeting, said her daughters would likely have to move to another school.

“We wished you would have spoken out to help clear Chris’ name since HUSD knows the truth about the horrible rumors,” she said. “Even still the damage is done.”

“Being married to Mr. Reuter for over a decade I know his morals and character better than anyone,” she said. “I witnessed firsthand his tireless dedication to his career and more specifically Power Ranch Elementary.”

Taylor-Reuter filed for divorce from her husband in August, according to court records.

Joann Reuter talked about her work with asylum seekers in the United States and said she hoped that they would get a chance to attend a school such as Power Ranch.

“This staff is more caring and loving – the teachers and the administrators, especially my son Christopher Reuter,” she said. “I hope that they never get to witness such an ugly and insensitive board and superintendent.”

Van Hoek also faulted the district for not telling the board and parents about another incident.

She said that she has asked the district to alert parents about an Oct. 26 incident “regarding a teacher at Higley High School being placed on leave pending an investigation by Gilbert Police Department” over allegations of misconduct with a student.

“The board was informed only after a citizen journalist posted the information on social media,” she said. “There was a lack of transparency in communicating this information to the board and to the parents of Higley High.”

She said that she was told that the police had advised the district that the information “should not be shared with the board or anyone else.”

“Students were told by a substitute that the teacher would be back after two weeks,” Van Hoek said. “I find this to be unacceptable and have shared the same concerns with the administration.

“Again, if the district notified parents and the board immediately, we wouldn’t have to find out from other sources, which then creates a lot of speculation. As of this week, it is my understanding that the administration is working on gathering information on this situation to share with the community.”

Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor

2023-11-28 07:00:00 , ""news"" – Vivrr Local

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