High school principal abruptly, officially removed
Cheek banned from campus, can only attend graduation
BARSTOW • Just two weeks before graduation, Barstow High School Principal Ed Cheek was notified that he will not be allowed to return to campus for the remainder of the year and will be placed on “paid administrative leave” as of June 2, according to an official letter that Cheek received Monday morning.
The letter, from Superintendent Susan Levine, stated that placing Cheek on paid leave was “in the best interest of all parties involved” and was not a “disciplinary” measure, according to Cheek.
It did, however, specify that he would be banned from setting foot on district property with the exception of attending the high school’s graduation ceremony on June 18.
Cheek said he would be returning to campus that night to clear out his office.
Cheek was notified on April 3 of his reassignment to an elementary teaching position for next school year, which removed him as high school principal and, according to Cheek, effectively terminated his employment with the district.
At the time, several district administrators refused to comment on why Cheek was being removed.
The notice sparked outcries from several high school staff, students and parents who protested the planned removal, particularly since Cheek had been at the high school for less than one year.
More than 100 people attended the April 28 board meeting where students presented petitions opposing Cheek’s removal and several teachers spoke before the board members, who voted 3-2 to replace Cheek.
Both Levine and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Jeff Malan declined to discuss the notice given to Cheek on Monday or any issues dealing with Cheek’s employment with the district.
“Again, I’m at a loss,” Cheek said hours after receiving the letter.
According to Levine, Associate Principal Scott Godfrey will take on additional roles in Cheek’s absence, but will not be made principal until next fall.
Leah Johnston, a social studies and psychology teacher at BHS, said she thought Cheek would at least be allowed to finish the school year and was shocked when she found out about his immediate departure through an e-mail he sent to staff.
“Why is it necessary? It’s not like he was doing anything to damage the school,” Johnston said. “...I don’t know what they’re doing — they’re not giving us any justification and I think we deserve it,” she said.
English teacher Connie Born said she immediately thought of how students would miss out on Cheek’s presence at events like sports games during the last few weeks of his time at BHS.
“Those are the things he likes to be part of and it means so much of the kids,” said Born.
Cheek was hired in July 2008, replacing then high school principal of six years Claire Ellis, who is currently dean of students at Barstow Junior High School.
Before coming to BHS, Cheek was vice principal of Tehachapi High School, located about 85 miles west of Barstow, where he was given a sudden termination notice — a “nonreelect,” meaning that the Tehachapi Unified School District could terminate him without giving reason — in March 2008.
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