Repeated allegations of bullying and grade changing are what led Friday to the Kern High School District board reassigning Mira Monte High’s principal, a consultant for the district said in the summary of an investigative report obtained by The Californian.
Principal Jaime Quinonez, who was accused of bullying teachers and students, will be moved to a different district position, KHSD board President Chad Vegas announced Friday at a special board meeting.
Gabriel Godinez, Quinonez’s attorney, said he and his client don’t know what their next steps will be.
“Right now we have to wait,” he said.
The KHSD has, since meeting attendees brought up concerns at a board meeting in March, been looking into student and staff allegations regarding how Quinonez has been leading the school.
Students and educators claimed in written and oral complaints Quinonez encouraged a culture of fear and bullying at Mira Monte and that he rewarded his favorites and punished his opposers.
Jesse Aguilar, vice president of the Kern High School Teachers Association, released a copy of an executive report detailing similar claims to The Californian after the meeting Friday. (Scroll to the end of the story to read the report for yourself.)
Aguilar, who spoke out against Quinonez’s treatment of teachers, has said under the principal’s reign, the Mira Monte math department would be "decimated" because veteran teachers are transferring from the school.
Records The Californian obtained supported his claim. No other KHSD school came close to the more than 100 certificated staffing vacancies Mira Monte listed from March 2014 to March 2015, according to district records.
Aguilar wrote in a statement Friday that union officials are pleased about the board decision and now the campus can “begin to heal.”
“We look forward to the appointment of a new principal and look forward to a new Mira Monte,” Aguilar said.
Amid scrutiny, Quinonez has also attracted several supporters, the more vocal being Dolores Huerta, a the longtime farmworker activist whose foundation gathered about 220 signatures supporting him.
Huerta, who attended the special board meeting Friday, said if the district was smart it would ask “what has Jaime Quinonez been doing right” instead of going after him.
She quoted improvement in graduation rates and test scores at the school, especially among children of farm workers and English learners.
Quinonez, a district employee of more than 17 years, is one of just a few Latino principals in the KHSD, a district in which more than 60 percent of its students are Hispanic.
Huerta said Quinonez deserved more consideration.
“I’m not sure that he had that day in court,” she said.
Vegas explained the district contracted with Gilmore Magness and Leifer, a legal team from Fresno, and attorney Daniel Rowley (part of the team) interviewed not only Quinonez but several Mira Monte staffers.
The district found many of the charges made against Quinonez were true, Vegas said. Rowley wrote in the investigation summary that he found a pattern of allegations including bullying, gender discrimination and changing grades.
The investigator also reported allegations of retaliation for participating in a sexual harassment investigation.
Trustees, with the report in hand, deliberated in closed session for just short of three hours before the board — short one member, Bryan Batey — returned with the results of a Mira Monte investigation started earlier this year.
Quinonez will remain a certificated KHSD employee, but Vegas said the board hasn't decided whether he will continue serving as a KHSD administrator.
Read the Mira Monte report below for yourself: