A recent, independent investigation into Healdsburg High School Principal Amy Jones-Kerr found nothing to substantiate concerns regarding Jones-Kerr’s leadership as former Roseland School District superintendent during a time when the district was receiving allegations of racism, inequity and favoritism.
On Aug. 18, the Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees held a closed session meeting to discuss the third-party inquiry into Jones-Kerr.
On the closed session agenda the item was listed under section 4.2 as “public employee discipline/dismissal.”
During the regular board meeting, which was held on the same day in-person at Healdsburg City Hall, school board vice president Mike Potmesil made a statement on behalf of the board regarding the investigation and its results.
Potmesil acted as board president for the duration of the meeting since board president Aracely Romo-Flores was absent.
“As the community knows, we offered Ms. Jones-Kerr the job of principal at Healdsburg High School,” Potmesil said. “Shortly thereafter, concerns were raised about Ms. Jones-Kerr’s prior leadership at the Roseland School District, specifically about perceived lack of intervention and or action into issues reported at Roseland University Prep High School. To be clear, there were no formal complaints made to our district. Most of the concerns stressed were on social media, which presents some set of challenges.”
In May the district planned to embark on an independent inquiry into Jones-Kerr following community concern and a petition — which garnered over 2,500 signatures — that called for a transparent investigation into Jones-Kerr and the reconsideration of her position in the district following several allegations of racism occurring within the Roseland district while Jones-Kerr was the superintendent.
The petition, titled Listen to the Students of Healdsburg, was created by an anonymous group of students in early May.
Healdsburg Unified School District (HUSD) Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel told SoCoNews in May that he met with the students who were part of organizing the petition, and that the district received accusations “in paper form that were focused on the Roseland district.”
According to Vanden Heuvel, the written accusations were submitted from a former Roseland School District student who graduated several years ago.
During the interview in May, Vanden Heuvel didn’t discuss the details and scope of the accusations but said none of them were actually accusations against Jones-Kerr.
“It is my understanding that … the comments that occurred at a couple of board meetings and on social media regarding the Roseland district, none of them have been focused on her. However, they made the point that … she was an administrator of Roseland at the time, that she bears responsibility,” Vanden Heuvel said.
HUSD announced the hiring of Jones-Kerr on April 21 during a regular school board meeting. Earlier, former Healdsburg High School Principal Bill Halliday had announced his plan to retire. He retired on June 30.
News of the district’s selection of Jones-Kerr came as a surprise to some residents as allegations of racism, inequity, favoritism and other forms of discrimination occurring within the Roseland School District while Jones-Kerr was the district superintendent were raised by students and families. Jones-Kerr resigned from the Roseland district in November 2020 when she gave her formal resignation notice during a Nov. 18, 2020 school board meeting.
Jones-Kerr told SoCoNews in April that the allegations were not the reason for her departure.
“We want to let everyone know that we heard the complaints and the concerns of the community, so we responded immediately,” Potmesil said during the Aug. 18 meeting. “We met with groups of students, parents and community members on numerous occasions and initiated a formal, external investigation.”
According to the board statement, over 40 hours of work went into the independent investigation into Jones-Kerr.
“The investigation was handled by a legal attorney and this is done with fidelity to our primary interest in the discovery of facts regarding Ms. Jones-Kerr’s actions or inactions in Roseland,” Potmesil said.
He said that it is important to note that the investigation included tracking down commenters on social media who commented with personal experience.
“We cannot take actions solely based on rumors and social media. We can only take action based on the facts that are reported. In short and in summary, the investigation revealed absolutely nothing to substantiate any of the concerns or criticisms against Ms. Jones-Kerr,” he said.
Potmesil said they are moving forward with her role and are confident that she is committed
to the district’s equity and anti-racism policies that were passed in June.
He continued, “We urge everyone in the community to support her and Healdsburg High School as we head into a new year and a year that will no doubt require heightened teamwork and collaboration in order to address the continued challenges presented by public health concerns, including academic challenges, social strengthening and emotional support.”
“We want our school community to know that this board and administration is committed to hiring the most excellent, effective and high quality employees. We want all employees who join our organization to come in with full confidence that we support them and the important work that they will be doing for our students,” he said.
Speaking more broadly, he said, “If a person, whether a student, parent, staff or community member has a concern regarding discrimination, harassment, bullying, retaliation or any mistreatment, there is a process for bringing your voice forward and there are numerous individuals in our schools prepared and available to help you navigate the process.”
Potmesil’s remarks concluded with expressing a commitment to creating and maintaining safe schools for all students and all staff is a priority for the organization.
Potmesil urged people with concerns to come forward.
“Come forward and give us the information that we need to take action. Your voices matter,” he said.