ONTARIO – Jodi Elizondo, Ontario High School principal, laid down her legal sword last week, forgiving Ontario School Board members and saying she was ready to move on.
“Ontario needs some peace,” Elizondo said in a statement to the Enterprise.
Her decision ends months of turmoil between Ontario School District administrators and the school board. The events triggered three investigations of board members, prompted one board member to resign, produced two board censures of its own members and led the board to publicly apologize to Elizondo for its “numerous baseless, inaccurate and unfounded claims.”
The Ontario School Board continues to remain largely mum about developments, including the disclosure that board member Eric Evans for the third time was found to violate policies.
Board Chair Tom Greco didn’t respond to emails Friday seeking comment on the latest developments and Evans said by email that he had been advised by the district’s attorney not to comment.
There was a rough finish to the business last week.
The board was scheduled to read aloud a letter of apology it had already delivered to Elizondo. But the decision to apologize split the board, with directors Greco, Matt Stringer and Blanca Rodriguez favoring the apology and Evans and director Craig Geddes voting no.
Evans and Geddes haven’t publicly explained why they voted no. Geddes in an email to the Enterprise on Friday said he wouldn’t comment beyond what he said at the board’s public meeting earlier in the week.
Geddes reacted strongly after a letter from Elizondo instead of the apology was read aloud by Greco.
In her letter, Elizondo disclosed that an investigation into her complaints found that a former board member, Derrick Draper, had violated two board policies in his treatment of Elizondo. She wrote that the district also advised her in May that Evans and Draper were found in violation “by openly discussing complaints about me during Supt. [Nikki] Albisu’s public performance review, a violation of the complaint process that unfairly bypassed my ability to be made aware of any complaints or address them.”
The board previously had censured Draper twice and Evans once following investigations into complaints against them by Albisu and Lisa Longoria, Ontario Middle School principal. Greco didn’t respond to questions about why the board didn’t act against Evans if he had been found in violation a second time.
But Elizondo made clear in her letter she was disappointed in Evans and Geddes for opposing the board’s apology to her.
“I was sincerely hoping they would take that opportunity to redeem themselves and demonstrate reflection and a commitment to the health of our district and the community they serve, which is their primary role,” she wrote. “Their inability to learn from and acknowledge mistakes confirms to me that their behavior towards me is likely to continue.”
Geddes explained that while he voted against the apology, “We act as a board and I was ready to move forward with the consensus.”
He said Elizondo’s letter represented an “unfounded” attack on him.
“I have never one time been in found in violation of any board policy, ethical violations or legal violations,” he said, noting that “I’ve only been here for a year.”
Elizondo directly addressed Geddes and Evans in her letter.
“I have personally forgiven you for your actions that have brought harm to me and those I care about,” she wrote. “I realize you did not ask for this, but this extension of forgiveness brings me peace and closure and my hope is it affects you in a positive way.”
In her statement to the Enterprise, Elizondo said she wasn’t pursuing legal action against the district but would be forced to if she continues to be bullied and harassed.
“I am willing to forgo an apology and trust the behavior will not continue or be allowed to continue to help us get there,” she said. “Negativity must be replaced with modeling positivity and support if we are to offer any hope for our children and citizens. We can’t afford to have public figures be anything but representative of this goal.”
Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email at [email protected].
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