Santa Barbara News Press

Goleta Board Criticized Over Firing of Principal

A group of about 50 parents and teachers assailed the Goleta school board and superintendent Wednesday night for abruptly terminating the contract of La Patera School Principal Sonia Schultz.

The brouhaha marked the second time in a week that parents have delivered district officials a public drubbing in support of Ms. Schultz, who was told she could return to the classroom as a teacher next fall.

Among her supporters who spoke to the board was her husband, Trent Schultz, who charged that one of the board members who voted on the matter on March 1 should have recused himself because of a conflict of interest.

The board member, Manor Buck, is married to the classroom aide of a teacher who is Ms. Schultz’s most vocal detractor on staff, he said.

“I would call her an insubordinate employee,” said Mr. Schultz, a 41-year old engineer, who did not mention names during his public comment.

“The district has listened to her rhetoric and now has started making decisions based upon it.

“The board member,” he continued, “seconded the motion to remove (Ms. Schultz).”

Reached at home Wednesday night, a woman who described herself as “someone who lives in the house” with the teacher, Judy Jenkins, said Ms. Jenkins did not care to comment on Mr. Schultz’s remarks.

Meanwhile, Ms. Schultz, 49, — who is in the midst of her sixth year as leader — is appealing the decision, which she said was meted out with little explanation other than she does not fit the preferred “style” of the Goleta elementary district.

“I am just happy for the support,” Ms. Schultz said after the meeting. “If it’s not my job, it’s my integrity I am fighting for. . . . I have faith in the board that they will reconsider.”

Ms. Schultz earns $99,000 a year as principal of La Patera. On average, teachers in Goleta earn about $62,000.

Ms. Schultz, a Puerto Rican, has said that she is the only native Spanish-speaking administrator in the district. She and supporters say this makes her an especially good fit at La Patera, where six in 10 students are Latino.

The school board did not respond to the dozen or so speakers who vouched for Ms. Schultz, other than to say her appeal hearing would be held in closed session on March 22.

The board’s silence seemed to echo the words of Superintendent Kathleen Boomer at a PTA meeting last week, when she told about 100 parents that confidentiality laws precluded her from giving them a reason for the decision recommending that Ms. Schultz be removed.

On Wednesday night, Ms. Boomer took notes while the supporters spoke, rarely looking at the speakers at the podium.

Leroy Jeffers, a member of the local Elks Lodge, credited Ms. Schultz for being extremely helpful with a free-throw shooting contest he organizes at the school.

“Why do you let a girl like this go?” he asked.