Demotion for vice principal sparks outcry: Age discrimination alleged; district officials say they can’t comment on matter | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Demotion for vice principal sparks outcry: Age discrimination alleged; district officials say they can’t comment on matter

William Ferchland

Backed by several vocal supporters, an outraged veteran South Tahoe Middle School vice principal questioned his demotion to the classroom and charged the decision had elements of age discrimination.

Jim Valdes, who for years helped guide the middle school, voiced his anger and confusion with the move to the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday evening.

“When I asked where and how the decision was made I did not receive a rational explanation,” Valdes said, kicking off the public comment session of the meeting.

The announcement last week was that Kathi Jensen, an administrator in special education at the district office, will take the vice principal spot next school year.

Teachers felt slighted since no attempt was made to gather their input. Morale has plummeted at the school, several teachers said.

“Our staff is demoralized to say the least that he is leaving,” said Carol Murdock, a middle school teacher and president of the teachers union.

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Both Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis and board President Wendy David told a reporter that they couldn’t comment on the matter because it deals with personnel issues.

Jensen has previous experience at the middle school as an assistant principal, a position she last held in the 2001-02 school year.

Valdes is two years away from being eligible for retirement. The demotion means Valdes will receive $11,000 less in salary and $55,000 in retirement over a five-year span, he calculated.

He said the move to bring in the younger Jensen has overtones of age discrimination.

Three teachers, including Murdock, pressed the five-member board to reconsider and reinstate Valdes as vice principal, citing his veteran leadership and fairness in disciplining students.

Teacher Nancy Cole questioned the board’s integrity and honor in a decision many feel is a setback in the district’s mission to nourish trust within and outside the schools.

“He has been the best, absolutely the best, and what’s happening to him has me (almost) speechless,” Cole said.

On his way to his car, Valdes said the support for his reinstatement was “awesome” but believed the decision was set.

“Do I think it will help? I doubt it,” he said. “The board is going to do what the board is going to do.”

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