ONTARIO – A petition asking to remove Jodi Elizondo as principal of Ontario High School has garnered 1,100 signatures online, prompting a response from the Ontario School District on its Facebook page.
The petitioner, Paula Harris, is a teacher at Alameda Elementary School, also in the Ontario School District. Her petition lists several personal encounters between herself, her children, and Elizondo as its justification.
"I am disappointed, angered, saddened, frustrated, embarrassed, and just outright DONE dealing with it,” she wrote on Change.org. “Every single year that my kids have been in school, we've had a bad experience with her both at school and around our community.”
Harris cited incidents as varied as a supposed snub in a public encounter outside school, when Elizondo failed to say hello to her family, to the fact that the high school hadn’t yet returned to full in-person instruction.
“Our community needs a new leader at OHS. If you are frustrated as well and agree we need change, please sign,” said Harris in the petition.
Elizondo, principal since 2016, and Superintendent Nikki Albisu declined to answer questions from the Enterprise.
Elizondo’s clashes with some school board members was chronicled in a complaint filed in 2019. The letter to the board said it represented the views of 14 of the district’s 18 administrators. In 2020, Elizondo warned that the conduct of Board Member Derrick Draper may lead her to sue the school district. Earlier this year, she asked police to investigate the recording of a staff meeting that was provided to Draper. The investigation concluded no crime occurred.
Elizondo’s tenure as principal has seen rising graduation rates at the high school, an achievement which Harris said was “commendable,” but did not excuse Elizondo’s other perceived failures.
“The drama, choir, and history department head teachers have all left Ontario High School over the last few years because of conflicts with Dr. Elizondo,” Harris told the Enterprise. “Several football, basketball, and other coaches have left the school, leaving our high school struggling to put together teams. My children have been forced to switch teachers multiple times within a year because of teachers quitting or getting fired as a direct result of conflicts with Dr. Elizondo. My children have told stories about how staff complained about their work environment openly in class.”
Commenters on the petition echoed some of Harris’s points while adding others of their own.
Many commenters complained of what they perceived as high rates of teacher turnover, a complaint which has been both taken up and addressed in recent board meetings. According to the Oregon Department of Education, the rate of teacher turnover at the high school was 22% in 2018-2019.
Other commenters complained of what they said was insensitive or even bullying behavior from Elizondo.
“I had a literal panic attack last year, I was having trouble breathing and felt AWFUL and she just brushed it off and sent me to the sick room,” said Chloe Paton. “From my experience I don’t think she takes mental health serious at all.”
“When I was a senior she told me my processing disorder (which I had been tested for) was in my head,” said Rebecca Harris. “That all kids learn the same and if I can't learn like everyone else that’s my problem not hers.”
“On graduation day, walking on stage, Elizondo shook my hand and said ‘I’m surprised to see you up here,’” said Lexus Loa. “I was in disbelief.”
When asked for comment, Elizondo referred the Enterprise to the statement posted on the Ontario School District Facebook page.
“The Ontario School District wholeheartedly stands by and supports its staff. Each and every one of our employees holds value to this district, and we respect the time, effort, and ideas they contribute to our team,” said the statement. “We are both sad and disheartened that some individuals in this community are at odds with our schools and/or OSD family. As an organization, we strive to meet the needs of all of our stakeholders. Unfortunately, that is not always an easy task.”
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
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