El Dorado trustees want ‘outside help’ to solve undisclosed problems at Oak Ridge High School

El Dorado Union High School District trustees, swamped by supporters for Oak Ridge Principal Paul Burke, announced Thursday that they had directed the superintendent to hire “outside help to identify issues and solutions” at the campus.

That brief statement, read by board President David Del Rio following a closed-door meeting and shared with The Sacramento Bee on Friday, was greeted by Burke and his supporters as a sign that he would be returning to work at the high school in January.

District officials, however, did not immediately return calls. It is unclear what Thursday’s decision means for Burke.

Burke had been placed on administrative leave since Nov. 2 while the school district gathered information about the undisclosed personnel matter. Superintendent Stephen Wehr last month declined to provide any information about why Burke was placed on leave, calling it a “confidential personnel matter.”

After the meeting Thursday night, Burke posted an initial statement on his Facebook page outlining what he believes comes next.

“Tonight the school board gave direction to Superintendent Wehr to bring in an outside consultant to work directly with me and members of our team to determine the best way to work through a variety of team-based complexities,” Burke wrote. “The consultant will be identified over the winter break and will begin working with me and the team,” in January.

Allan Priest, president of the Oak Ridge School Foundation and a staunch Burke supporter, said he believes the district plans to hire an outside firm “to assess the administrative team and management issues and work with that team and hopefully bring Paul back in the third or fourth week of January.”

Burke’s departure and the lack of detail about his administrative leave triggered an outpouring of support on Facebook and Twitter from parents and former students declaring support for the principal and urging others to help “Back Burke.”

On Thursday night, about 70 people appeared at the meeting on Burke’s behalf, Priest said, and nine spoke in support. In a previous trustee meeting, representatives of the district and the principal’s supporters said more than 400 parents and community members swamped the session in support of the principal.

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