SHIPROCK — Just weeks after fighting for the survival of her school, the principal of Career Prep High School in Shiprock was let go.

District officials handed Joyce Rock three letters Wednesday, the first of which — to her surprise — was a resignation letter, she said. Though district officials asked her to sign it, Rock refused.

"I didn't resign. It was not truth," she said Thursday. "That's the district's way of not paying unemployment."

District officials had little to say about the placement of Rock on administrative leave. School district spokesman James Preminger said that it was a personnel matter and would not elaborate on why Rock was let go.

The second letter informed her that her contract was not going to be renewed for the next school year.

The third informed her that she was being placed on administrative leave and needed to remove her items from the school immediately.

Rock was not allowed to return to the campus after she received the letters, and she was not allowed to discuss her situation with her fellow employees.

Rock, who has been principal at the alternative high school for four years, said she had been on a growth plan for the past two weeks. A growth plan is to help employees improve their performance in the work environment.

District officials placed Rock on the plan after she openly expressed her disagreement with district Superintendent Don Levinski's idea earlier this month to shut down Career Prep, she said.

Rock spoke openly about her feelings. During meetings, Rock explained that some Career Prep students would not continue their education at other local high schools if the school closed.

Many of the students who enroll at the school are teen parents or have struggled previously at other high schools. For many of them, Career Prep was their last chance, she said.

"I did what was morally right. I don't regret that. It was worth my job," she said.

A last-minute discovery of federal funding ended the plan to close the school. Still, district officials did not like Rock's public statements, she said.

Since being put on a growth plan, however, Rock said she has had only one meeting with her direct supervisor, Phil Kasper, the district director of administration and student success.

The two-week period was insufficient for her to prove growth, or lack thereof, Rock said.

In similar past incidences, the district has maintained that it follows state statutes and district policies when placing employees on leave. At times, it will ask an employee to resign because it will look better on the employee's resume, Preminger said.


Joyce Rock's lawyer and her son, Jim Rock, argued that the district has not consistently followed its own rules.

"Central Consolidated has specific regulations," said Jim Rock, a government lawyer based in Washington, D.C. "It has been wholly inconsistent."

He said that Joyce Rock may take legal action, joining a handful of employees who already are doing so. She currently is looking for work outside the district, though she said she will greatly miss her place at Career Prep.

"I loved my job," she said.

Joyce Rock earned $80,000 a year supervising about a dozen staff and 120 students. Both students and staff spoke of how much they cared for her and the school at the numerous public meetings held when the school's future was uncertain. 

Most of the students, however, are unaware that their principal will not be at the school next year because Rock learned the news after the school's last day, May 24.

"She's awesome. She helped me through a lot," said Breanna Yazzie, 17, who will be a senior at Career Prep next year, in a phone interview Thursday. "She did a lot, so I want to know why they fired her. I would like to see the district do a better job."

Rock's contract ends June 13, according to Preminger.

District officials did not take long before posting Rock's position on the district website. They posted the opening on the same day they informed Rock that she no longer had the job.

Also posted Wednesday under open administrative positions was that of dean of students, which previously was the assistant principal position at Tse' Bit Ai' Middle School in Shiprock. The position currently is held by Rose Nofchissey, whose contract ends today. It will not be renewed, Preminger said.

Four other administrative positions are open, along with an additional 65 positions in other employment categories. They can be found under the human resources section on the district website, ccsdnm.org

"It had always been my dream to work on the reservation," Rock said. "We had so much fun, even the last few weeks, but everyone's afraid."

Jenny Kane covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and jkane@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane