Rock Ridge Elementary School's principal was put on administrative leave under allegations of misconduct at about the same time parents and students protested in defense of the school's teachers.
Amber Sorg already had submitted her resignation in early 2014, and planned to work until June 30. Her leave comes six weeks ahead of that planned last day. Douglas County School District officials aren't saying why Sorg was put on leave, noting it is a personnel issue.
In a May 19 letter to Rock Ridge parents, DCSD's assistant superintendent of elementary education Ted Knight called the situation "regrettable," and asked parents to respect Sorg's privacy.
"I know that this will be difficult news for many of our students and we feel that it is best shared by parents, so we encourage you to have a conversation with your child tonight about the change," Knight's message read.
Incoming principal Michelle Colton will be brought on board earlier than planned "to help keep the learning environment as stable as possible," according to Knight.
Parents think they know the reason Sorg, who became principal in 2012, was put on leave.
"I believe this happened because parents dared to voice their opinion on our children's world class education," said Jen Johnson, who has two kids at Rock Ridge and participated in the May 16 protest. "We collaborated together, and spoke out against our teachers being bullied and demoralized. I believe Amber is being punished because of parent actions."
Johnson said the atmosphere at her children's Castle Rock school was strained when she came to do her volunteer shift May 19.
"There were police officers outside our school, and two more in cars in the church parking lot across the street," she said. "When I walked in, the air feels different. Teachers who would normally come up (to me) didn't, because they're afraid. No one was talking to anyone besides parents asking, 'What the hell is going on in our school?'
"This is our neighborhood, where my kids are growing up. To watch and feel this happening in my own school is sad, and it makes me angry. It shouldn't have happened."
The protest held at the end of the school day May 16 was triggered by a district-level review of Rock Ridge teachers' evaluations. In-school evaluations led by Sorg ranked the staff "effective" or "highly effective," prompting the second, district-led evaluation. DCSD officials said a Level 2 review is standard when evaluations don't appear consistent with those of other schools. Teachers' ratings are tied to pay increases.
Knight said DCSD's focus is on the safety and education of its children.
"We strive to ensure that each student has a quality teacher in every classroom and a responsible administrator leading the building," he wrote. "We will be doing our best to ensure a stable learning environment through the final weeks of the school year.
"We will continue to communicate with you regarding next steps," Knight concluded. "Please know that we will do what we can do to support you and your students through this difficult situation."
Knight included his district email address, and urged parents to write with any additional concerns.