CCSD puts Shiprock principal on paid leave

CCSD human resources director appointed acting principal until the last day of school

Noel Lyn Smith
  • Tsé Bit’a’í displayed a poster listing students who would not be promoted to the next grade level.
  • Principal J. Kaibah Begay was placed on leave after the incident was reported to administrators.
  • Interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman apologized to students and parents for the incident.

FARMINGTON — The principal of Tsé Bit’a’í Middle School in Shiprock has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Central Consolidated School District spokesman James Preminger confirmed that J. Kaibah Begay was placed on administrative leave Wednesday.

She was placed on leave after the administration was notified that the school displayed a poster this week that listed more than 100 students who allegedly would not be promoted to the next grade level, Preminger said.

The school has 483 students in sixth through eighth grades.

Preminger said the poster was put up at approximately 12:30 p.m. Monday in a hallway near the school’s entrance. The administration was notified about the poster on Tuesday afternoon, and it was removed at approximately 2:30 p.m., he said.

"The school told the administration. Once they told us, we had the poster taken down immediately," Preminger said.

George Schumpelt, the CCSD human resources director, has been appointed the school's acting principal until May 27, which is the last day of school.

Parents were notified about the poster in a Wednesday letter from Interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman.

In the letter, Bowman called the poster an "ill-conceived attempt" to motivate students. She wrote that this type of action is not part of the district's curriculum or any student development program.

She stated CCSD is "committed" to obtaining the facts and then taking the necessary corrective action.

"These steps are to ensure that this will not happen again and that all school district personnel are familiar and knowledgeable of its academic policies and procedures," Bowman wrote.

Preminger said Bowman apologized to students on Thursday and to parents during the school board's work session that evening.

"The superintendent wants to build students' self-esteem, confidence and identity and have it be part of the learning environment," Preminger said. "We apologize to all students and parents that this happened."

This is Begay's first year as principal at Tsé Bit’a’í. She previously served as principal at Newcomb Middle School.

Begay could not be reached for comment this evening.

Preminger said Dannell Yazzie, the school's Dean of Students, was also placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday, but an investigation found she was not involved with posting the poster. Yazzie returned to work Friday, according to Preminger.

Later this month, the school will host two parent forums to address several issues, including the poster incident. Preminger said the first forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday will address the poster and solicit parent feedback. The second meeting at 6 p.m May 26 will focus on the upcoming school year. Both will take place inside the school auditorium.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.