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Embattled PPS Principal Resigns Less Than a Week After Contract Renewal

Board approved three-year contract extension last Tuesday. Rebecca Torres's resignation was announced Monday.

A controversy-plagued principal who led Rieke Elementary School in Southwest Portland for less than two years will resign her post as of the end of the school year.

Portland Public Schools officials announced the resignation Monday after WW made inquiries.

Rieke principal Rebecca Torres had her contract extension approved on Tuesday by the school board. Then on Friday, the district announced she would be on medical leave until April 4.

But that wasn't the end of it. On Monday, PPS announced she would not return to the school next fall—just six days after the contract-renewal vote that Superintendent Carole Smith requested for district principals.

School Board members defended the decision to extend the contracts by saying the district was in the midst of addressing personnel matters in other ways.

"It's really important to me that as a board we use the evaluation process in a really intentional way," said Board Member Amy Kohnstamm, noting the current School Board has set principal quality as a priority.

"I will tell you that it's a higher level scrutiny of the process than PPS has seen in the recent past."

Torres was shifted to Rieke in 2014 after parents, including now school-board member Paul Anthony, petitioned for Torres' ouster from her previous post at Beach Elementary.

PPS initially did not release the names of principals and teachers whose contracts were up for renewal, The Oregonian editorial board noted last week.

The school district's decision to hide the names backfired, drawing further scrutiny from the public, Anthony said.

"I couldn't believe they did that," he noted. "It just put a big spotlight on it."

Among those whose contracts were renewed: Former Buckman principal Robin Morrison who went out on medical leave last March and remains on medical leave. (Buckman's interim principal Susan Kosmala was appointed to a full-time role, Smith announced earlier this month.)

Former Rigler Elementary Principal Sara Gandarilla went on leave just weeks before the end of the 2015 school year, after Rigler teachers brought a formal labor complaint against her; she was assigned to Markham Elementary as an assistant principal this school year. Her contract was renewed.

PPS will now seek a replacement for Torres at Rieke, which pleases her critics.

"I am glad Rieke will have a new principal," said a Rieke parent who has complained to the district about her child being sexually harassed at the school. "I hope PPS works to hire a quality administrator."

The parent also noted that district had just started a formal investigations of her complaints, which were filed more than two months ago.

"The lack of urgency on the part of PPS puts children at unnecessary risk," says the parent, whose name is being withheld to protect her child's anonymity.

A PPS spokesman says the district cannot comment on investigations.

Here's the letter announcing Torres' resignation:

Update: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Torres is expected to return to Rieke April 4.