Education

Did Pleasant Grove principal willingly retire, or was he forced out?

'I know this takes time, but it shouldn't take ten years.'

Rachael Francois speaks at a forum on race at Sheldon High School. The meeting was called after the Pleasant Grove High School senior went public about racially charged incidents at the school.
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Rachael Francois speaks at a forum on race at Sheldon High School. The meeting was called after the Pleasant Grove High School senior went public about racially charged incidents at the school.

Henry "Hank" Meyer, Jr., the principal who was caught up in a firestorm of criticism after recent allegations of racism at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, will retire at the end of the school year.

The controversy started after PGHS senior Rachael Francois talked to the Sacramento Bee about racially charged incidents at the school in January. She came forward after a video went viral on social media featuring hate-filled remarks about African Americans from another Pleasant Grove student. She said complaints to the district didn’t result in change, although officials said they had taken steps to address her concerns.

The article about Francois resulted in a community meeting in late January that drew about 500 people, many with similar complaints about incidents at district schools.

Lorreen R. Pryor, president of the Black Youth Leadership Project, was among the people at the meeting who asked that the administration at the school be replaced. "The whole administration was complicit in the way they handled that. They had to work on removing him," she said of Meyer on Wednesday.

Meyer announced he would be retiring in his April/May principal's message: "This will be my last Principal’s Message, as I’m retiring June 29. It’s been a rewarding nine years, and I so greatly appreciate all who have helped to make my PG experience a rich and meaningful one. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. "

Thursday Meyer told The Bee: "It's time to retire. I'll be 69 on July 1st."

He would not comment on whether public pressure had anything to do with his decision.

Elk Grove Unified spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton would not comment on Meyer's retirement other than to say that he submitted his letter of intent to retire in March and that it was accepted by Superintendent Christopher Hoffman and the school board. She also said that he was one of a number of retirees that were thanked for their years of service at a recent brunch.

Meyer was paid $130,316 in 2016. His total pay with benefits that year was $168,899, according to Transparent California. The district did not provide more current salary information.

But a letter sent to The Sacramento Bee and to the school district, signed "Concerned PGHS staff that want the real truth to come out," indicates Meyer may have been pushed out. “Hank Meyer does not deserve to be asked to retire prematurely,” it reads. “He has positively contributed to our campus in a number of ways. “

The letter goes on to list Meyers many contributions including establishing the school’s annual multicultural assembly, his supervision of the English Learner program and relationships with staff and students, among other things.

‘We are greatly dismayed at the choice to force our principal to retire,” it said.

Joyce Brown, a community activist and parent, says she and other community activists have been agitating for Meyer’s removal since the January meeting. “Every meeting we would go to, we would push for that – that he needs to be released,” she said. “He is definitely the reason why the school was like that.”

Meyer was a vice principal and a coach at Jesuit High School for more than 20 years before he was hired by Elk Grove Unified in 2001, according to an article in the Elk Grove Citizen. He worked at Franklin High before being named principal at PGHS in 2009.

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