Paradise Valley Superintendent Resigns After Harassment Over School Closures
A photo of a map with the location of the former superintendent’s home was posted on a Facebook page in favor of reopening schools.
PHOENIX — The Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) Governing Board unanimously accepted the resignation of Superintendent Jesse Welsh during a special meeting Monday.
As a result, the board appointed Dr. James Lee as interim superintendent. Lee retired last summer after 10 years as superintendent at PVUSD. Welsh was previously assistant superintendent of the Clark County School District in Las Vegas before being hired as superintendent of PVUSD in July 2019.
While the district did not provide a reason for his resignation, Welsh is alleged to have resigned following disturbing behavior from parents demanding in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to ABC 15.
The district, which has 32,000 students, switched to remote learning on Nov. 23 after two of its three benchmarks for determining if in-person instruction is safe were not met.
The Arizona Department of Health Services created the benchmarks for schools and businesses regarding reopenings. The benchmarks include cases per 100,000 residents, percent positivity for diagnostic testing, and percentage of hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses, reports KTAR. However, individual school districts have the final say in whether they offer virtual, in-person, or hybrid learning.
“Dr. Welsh and his family have been the targets of harassment and threatening behavior, both at their home and their children’s school,” a source close to the district told ABC 15 on Saturday.
Community member Onida Perkel said parents protesting school closures dumped signs with pleas to open school written on them on Welsh’s lawn, according to azcentral.com.
“This is a very tough time for many families,” she said. “The district not only is providing education to our community but they’re providing food for our marginalized students. They’re doing the best they can.”
On Nov. 20, a photo of a map with the location of Welsh’s home, as well as the homes of several school board members, were posted on a Facebook page in favor of reopening schools. The post, which has since been removed from the page, encouraged followers to watch for any “non-essential activities.”
Since September, the Phoenix Police Department has also received at least two calls for service regarding harassment at Welch’s residence.
Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition online in support of Welsh. Several teachers also sat outside the district office in protest of his resignation while continuing to work from their laptops.