Education

Oak Ridge High School’s interim principal is former campus administrator

Aaron Palm, Interim Principal, Oak Ridge High School
Aaron Palm, Interim Principal, Oak Ridge High School

Aaron Palm has been named interim principal at Oak Ridge High School after district trustees voted to oust Principal Paul Burke this week.

Palm is a former vice principal at the El Dorado Hills school.

El Dorado Union High School District trustees voted Monday to keep Burke on administrative leave and terminate him at the end of the school year, calling it a confidential personnel matter.

The district made the announcement Tuesday and reported that Palm would serve in the interim post for the balance of the school year. Palm most recently has been the district’s director of educational options and innovations. The search for a permanent principal will start in mid-March.

In recent months, district officials consistently declined to describe the circumstances behind Burke’s removal.

But last week, Burke’s lawyer filed a claim against the district, its superintendent and three employees alleging that his client was falsely accused of sexually harassing a teacher at Oak Ridge. Burke continued to be targeted by the accuser, an administrative assistant, after the initial harassment complaint was deemed unfounded, according to the claim.

Burke gained a following as Oak Ridge principal since 2013 and won the support of some parents after he was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 2. Parents swamped several trustee meetings in subsequent months, protesting on Burke’s behalf. Trustees announced Dec. 17 that that they had directed the superintendent to hire “outside help to identify issues and solutions” at the campus.

Rocklin-based lawyer Jacob D. Flesher this week confirmed a report that he expects to file a federal lawsuit on Burke’s behalf as soon as district trustees reject the claim. The lawsuit, which The Bee obtained in draft form, seeks damages and Burke’s reinstatement.

Burke continues to receive pay through June 30, the balance of the school year. His current annual salary is $161,809.

Oak Ridge has 2,400 students, more than a third of the district’s overall enrollment of 6,800.

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