Few Answers From High Desert Montessori School

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.

Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1131 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno as publisher and executive editor. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.

10 Comments

  1. Rhonda is an unbelievably terrible leader as well as educator. Her behavior is the direct opposite of what Montessori stands for. This is not the forum to discuss this but…I tell anyone that listens about the horrific way she treated my child. Why would a board choose to keep a person that obviously os so inept that she is being talked about in the media? It’s one thing if one person complained but all these people can’t be wrong. I am born and raised Renoite and never have I ever wotnessed a person more disruptive to our community.

  2. Interesting that someone would accuse another person of being uninformed before writing about a topic (when the person being accused was, if fact, not) while simultaneously doing the exact thing about which he/she is making accusations—attempting to defame someone without backing the derogatory remarks with anything, at all.

    This is an example of the toxicity and divisiveness that has been propagated and allowed to fester—and I look forward to getting back to what I’ve known and loved about HDMS for many years—being the cohesive, nurturing community we truly are, that demonstrates what we hope our children will aspire to be and emulate.

  3. Wow Chris. Who are you? You made a good point. Why didnt the administration try to defend themselves other than bad mouthing teachers and cussing in a board meeting and saying everyone lost their jobs due to restructuring? I am interested to know your background sir. It seems you just jumped on the wagon.

  4. The Board is obviously not doing its job. They are supposed to be overseers, not bystanders.

  5. I have to wonder if Bob Conrad substantiates any of this information. All articles that have surrounded this post pander to the side of one Katrina Reinhardt. I see no other persons being interviewed. I see no concrete or reliable sources outside of hearsay. As an avid supporter of HDMS I am left wondering how many times Katrina will try and incite a kind of hysteria because she fell short of making her mark.

    When will Rhonda and her supporters have an opportunity to voice their objectives, goals and reasons without being unjustly prosecuted?

    • Thanks for asking. I’ve spoken with four parents, two teachers, attended one public meeting, and listened to recordings of two other meetings. Here’s an excerpt of a letter to the board from parents:

      “After discussions with parents, teachers, and students, we collectively believe Rhonda Turnipseed should no longer serve as Principal of High Desert Montessori. We know the Board is going through discussions to possibly renew her contract. We immediately request the Board not renew her contract. Our collective body of students, teachers, and parents cast a no confidence vote on her. We request immediately reinstall of the teachers and proper notice to all teachers for a one year contract. This will serve as proper notice which all agree is respectfully in best interest for everyone. Teachers will have time to look, families to make non rushed decisions too. The board and new principal can discuss a direction that is not a rushed tactic. We believe further that the Board members were not all notified of what was going on. That people st the meetings never heard of these decisions, this making us question whether the Board isolated state law in open meeting conversations and decisions. Should the Board renew Rhonda’s contract and not correct the errors of the teachers and the ways they were fired, we as a collective of families, will look at our rights to have Board members replaced with those that will do things in unison and embrace the school with actions that don’t appear to hide behind them, or to hire principals that go against the school belief.”

      Another parent email: “Nothing in Rhonda’s 6/6 presentation has caused me to reconsider my opposition to her leadership. In fact, her behavior and message were chilling. She has harmed HDMS, possibly irreparably. There is no shame in making a hiring mistake. It happens all the time. Bullies appear nice. The incompetent appear competent. There is only shame in not rectifying it.”

      Another teacher, still on contract, also expressed concerns at a meeting, saying she felt obligated to speak out. A middle school student said at the last meeting something to the tune of, if anyone should be fired, it should be Ms. Rhonda.

      Much of this is a matter of public record. As a news organization, when you get hammered with tips that something’s going down, you have an obligation to check it out. This checked out.

    • Who are you? I’ve never heard your name before. And why are you defaming Katrina? Because she spoke out? Do you have info we don’t have? Please share.

  6. It’s behavior like Ms. Clark’s, and the board, that make belonging to a Teachers Union imperative.

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