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Few Answers From High Desert Montessori School

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
Principal Rhonda Clark's contract will be considered at tomorrow's High Desert Montessori School Board meeting. Image: Ty O'Neil.
Principal Rhonda Clark’s contract will be considered at tomorrow’s High Desert Montessori School Board meeting. Image: Ty O’Neil.

UPDATE: After a closed-door meeting tonight, the HDMS board did not renew Principal Turnipseed Clark’s contract.

Teachers, parents, and students said that they are lacking answers from the High Desert Montessori School after a handful of teacher contracts were not renewed. Another contentious meeting board meeting was held June 10 where attendees complained again about the abrupt change.

At that meeting, board members said that they requested an item be put on the agenda to address an alleged restructuring the lead to nearly 40% of the school’s teaching staff not having their contracts renewed. That didn’t happen.

But students, parents, and teachers once again spoke out about what they called Principal Rhonda Turnipseed Clark’s autocratic leadership style.

Clark told the school’s board of directors that teacher contracts were not renewed because of a middle-school restructuring, but one of the teachers whose contract wasn’t renewed taught pre-school and kindergarten.

“She gave no other reason other than restructuring,” said Katrina Reinhardt, who won’t be returning to the school in the fall. “Teachers have been submitting formal complaints to the board that makes everything more specific about what concerns we have.

“The issue is that it’s [listed] under restructuring. [Clark] never really gave me an excuse, but they hired somebody for my same exact position.”

Clark said after the meeting that she could not talk about the teachers being let go.

“Everybody’s on a one-year contract. There were four teachers that were not renewed and one special education teacher,” she said. “I can’t discuss personnel issues. I was tasked with helping an under-performing school get better.”

Others disputed that statement. They said it was more personal than anything. Those whose contracts were not renewed indicated that they had expressed concerns about Clark’s management style.

Board chair Terry Fowler refused to answer questions after the June 10 meeting. He also called me rude and asked me to turn off my audio recorder. (It was a public meeting.)

Board members said that they cannot weigh in on personnel issues among teachers, but they are slated to consider Clark’s performance and contract tomorrow.

The board is meeting again tomorrow, Wednesday, June 26, 5 p.m. at 2025 Silverada Boulevard.

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