Education

Oak Ridge principal lost temper and used profanity, report says

Paul Burke, dismissed as Oak Ridge High School principal, has filed a claim against the El Dorado Union High School District and is expected to file a federal lawsuit.
Paul Burke, dismissed as Oak Ridge High School principal, has filed a claim against the El Dorado Union High School District and is expected to file a federal lawsuit.

A principal ousted from Oak Ridge High School frequently used profanity, periodically lost his temper and made derogatory comments about teachers, parents and students, according to a consultant’s report obtained Monday by The Sacramento Bee.

The 16-page report by district consulting firm The Bodine Group redacted the name of Principal Paul Burke while issuing harsh assessments about his performance. Supporters disagreed with those assessments, and Burke responded by providing “two exemplary personnel performance evaluations” he had received.

Burke was placed on administrative leave Nov. 2 over what district officials called an “undisclosed personnel matter.” He and his attorney acknowledged that the report was about him.

Burke recently filed a claim against the El Dorado Union High School District complaining that his removal started with a false sexual harassment allegation against him by an administrative assistant at the high school. Attorney Jacob D. Flesher, representing Burke, said the claim is a precursor to a federal lawsuit.

“The full scope of the fallout from the false sexual harassment allegation is not remotely represented in this report,” Burke said Monday in a statement. “I’m extremely confident that when all of the facts can be told in a court of law, under oath, and as one continuous story, the truth will be revealed. I very much look forward to that day.”

District trustees voted Feb. 29 to dismiss Burke from his job and to keep him on paid administrative leave until his contract expires June 30. Trustees decided in December to hire an outside consultant “to identify issues and solutions” at the El Dorado Hills high school.

The report said Burke “periodically lost his temper in dealing with staff and reacted unprofessionally” through a number of actions, including yelling, hitting things, swiping papers off his desk, using offensive language and storming out of his office.” It said he “frequently lied to staff and parents about decisions he made and blamed others for his own errors. He countermanded other administrators’ decisions and then denied that he had done so.”

Burke said he takes “great exception to the details in the report and would like to address them but can’t because of the legal process that has begun. It’s very frustrating to have my character, integrity and leadership continually maligned in the manner in which it has been. My true character as a person and as a leader is not reflected in the report,” he said.

Brent Lowder, co-chairman of El Dorado Parents for District Change described the district’s approach to dealing with the case as flawed.

“To us, it appears as an investigation conducted in a contaminated environment, and it seemed oddly focused on examining the climate (at Oak Ridge High) rather than searching for resolution,” Lowder said. “In terms of the contentions, we expect Burke and the lawsuit will address that in terms of what’s truthful and not. But in terms of the process, we still think there were fundamental flaws, and we’ll be searching for the full story.”

Lowder said Burke is “moving on from Oak Ridge. But as parents, we want to understand how the process broke down.” He said to parents who interacted with Burke, “of which I’m one, this seems completely inconsistent with his character” and two years of “stellar annual reviews.”

“We think there is a problem with leadership at the district level, and we’re going to potentially address that.”

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