Our reporting relies on your support. Contribute today! 

Help us reach our goal of $250,000. The countdown is on!

Thursday, March 31, 2005 | Gompers Middle School students were so fond of their principal Vince Riveroll that many contacted school board members to express their dismay when he was forced out, according to trustee Mitz Lee, who said the number of faxed letters from students “wore out my printer’s ink cartridge.”

Will these students be getting their popular principal back soon?

On March 10, Voice of San Diego called upon San Diego City Schools board members to reappoint Riveroll principal of Gompers Middle School. Riveroll, who was suddenly removed from Gompers on Feb. 8 in a 4-to-1 closed-session vote of the board, was reassigned without explanation to the district office as a mentor principal. He remains popular with students, teachers, staff and community members, and is considered key to the future success of the school, now that it will become charter on July 1.

Reaction from trustees to the idea of returning Riveroll to Gompers has been mixed.

“We’ve done more squirrelly things than that,” John de Beck said. “It seems like it would be appropriate that they would want him right away. It sounds reasonable. I wouldn’t have an objection. He’ll go there eventually.”

Katherine Nakamura, who was the only trustee to vote not to remove Riveroll from Gompers, refused to comment on the idea of returning him to the school. “I can’t say anything out of respect for my colleagues,” she said, but added that anyone could probably conclude how she feels about the matter from her vote.

But trustees Mitz Lee and Shelia Jackson were not keen on the idea. “I have not explored that and don’t know the process,” Lee said. “But I don’t think the school board will do that. We already made a decision. There was a reason why he was transferred, and we’re not talking about that.” She said Riveroll was made a mentor principal, which is “like a promotion,” and was not removed because of the charter movement, “even though the public thinks so.”

Jackson, in whose district Gompers is located, also said it was a personnel issue and “had nothing to do with the charter.” She said assigning Riveroll back to Gompers wouldn’t make sense and “would not be wise to do because of the reason he was reassigned in the first place.” She said it would “be fine if he wants to go” though, should the charter team ask him back once Gompers officially becomes an independent charter school on July 1.

Board president and trustee Luis Acle did not return phone calls.

UCSD involvement

So has Cecil Lytle, Thurgood Marshall College provost and music professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Lytle, in partnership with UCSD colleagues and the Gompers community, is preparing to convert the Chollas View middle school this fall into a thriving, high-achieving model for charter success. Lytle said Riveroll is an important ingredient in the transformation and wants him back. “We have made inquiries and are making that request,” he said.

Riveroll was considered integral to the team when the Gompers community first approached UCSD last December. Lytle said Riveroll was “a change agent” who had “all the right ideas” and whose leadership, seriousness and intensity were key factors in UCSD’s decision to partner with the school.

According to Brian Bennett, director of the office of school choice for SDCS, on July 1 the charter group can rehire Riveroll, who could accept the position at that time without losing employee rights and benefits by taking up to five years’ leave of absence. Many believe Riveroll, who is currently involved with the school strictly as a volunteer, will make the move.

But many Gompers’ charter leaders don’t want to wait until July 1 and want Riveroll involved in the planning process now. Bennett said this would require action by the school board.

Please contact Marsha Sutton directly at marsha.sutton@voiceofsandiego.org with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.