A student fight at Rincon Middle School in Escondido appears to be leading to staff changes at Juniper Elementary.
The school’s former principal, Mr. Jason Wrzeski, was transferred from Juniper to Rincon Middle on Tuesday, just a day after Escondido’s Union School District announced the move.
Soon after, a support rally was organized by parents, staff and students who want Wrzeski to stay at Juniper. In the last 29 years, teachers say, the school has had 14 principals.
“We've had awful principals and we've had wonderful principles. This guy has been the best,” said Judy Deyoung, a teacher at Juniper. “The kids are upset and the parents are upset. We just found out yesterday and he wasn't here today.”
The changes follow a fight that broke out between two students at Rincon Middle. The fight was recorded by a student on a cell phone. Questions were raised about how the Assistant Principal Mike Brinkley responded to the fight. Ultimately, the school board decided to replace Brinkley with Wrzeski.
“They said that Mr. Wrezki is the only candidate in the district who had the proper skill set to manage the situation over at Rincon,” said Jane Staples, a Juniper Elementary employee.
Parents say Brinkley watched the fight with his hands on his pocket, and did nothing to try and stop it.
The issue was addressed on Monday through a letter that was sent to Rincon Middle School parents. The letter signed by Superintendent, Luis Rankins-Ibarra, states:
“There were questions that arose regarding the response of the Assistant Principal that was in proximity to the altercation. Our district mandates training for all of our administrators in appropriate and lawful techniques for deescalating situations to preventing dangerous behavior. Administrative staff is definitively taught to physically intervene if there is an immediate threat to student or staff safety.”
Parents from Juniper Elementary say the school district is constantly changing its principals, making it impossible for students to have continuity.
“If the district had something that happened over there, that's the district's problem, not our problem,” George Pena told NBC 7. “We shouldn't have to pay the consequences for that.”
Isaac Martinez, a teacher at Juniper Elementary, voiced similar thoughts.
“We got the short end of the deal. We haven't had continuity for many years now," Martinez said. "Three principals in three years is not a good thing.”
As part of the staff changes, two additional assistant principals were brought on board to Rincon Middle: Chris Harris and Johnnie Landreth.