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Harding School Principal Nuh Kimbwala Placed on Paid Leave

Santa Barbara Unified School District administrators say an undisclosed incident is being investigated

Just three months after he started the job, the principal of Harding University Partnership School in Santa Barbara has been placed on paid administrative leave following an undisclosed incident this week.

Santa Barbara Unified School District board members received an email Thursday night saying Nuh Kimbwala was on paid leave, and an incident occurred that will be investigated, board member Ed Heron confirmed Friday afternoon.

Kimbwala, who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon, began work Aug. 6 after being unanimously recommended for the job by an 11-member panel and approved by the Board of Education.

He previously worked as principal for Bloomington Middle School in the Colton Joint Unified School District for four years.

Assistant Principal Vanesha Davis “will be assuming principal responsibilities at Harding University Partnership School, effective November 16, 2012,” district communications director Barbara Keyani said in an email Friday afternoon.

No one at the district was available for comment on the length of Kimbwala’s leave or what is being investigated in the meantime.

There was a mandatory meeting for all staff members at Harding after the school day Friday.

Harding parents have expressed their concerns about Kimbwala to the district since school started, mostly related to communication issues.

His predecessor, the popular Sally Kingston, would send newsletters home every week with school information, but some parents now feel disconnected from the school’s leadership, according to an Oct. 2 letter sent to Superintendent Dave Cash and the district.

Kimbwala didn’t speak Spanish — he has said he is fluent — or have Spanish translation available at the Back to School night, parents wrote.

“We don’t even know what his plan for our school is,” they wrote. “This is so different from last year.”

“Can you make yourself available along with a district interpreter to talk to parents in a meeting at Harding to address parent concerns?” the letter asks. “Perhaps if parents don’t have to fear that they will be identified by the school staff, they can speak freely to you and we can help Mr. Kimbwala transition better into our school community.”

The parents also asked for the return of office coordinator Giovanna Benavides, who apparently no longer works at the school.

Parents were also concerned about the lack of meetings for the school’s many groups and partnerships.

Nuh Kimbwala began work Aug. 6 at Harding University Partnership School. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)
Nuh Kimbwala began work Aug. 6 at Harding University Partnership School. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

Harding School Foundation president Brian Robinson said there have been fewer meetings for the school’s site council, and there haven’t been any meetings so far this year for the University Partnership advisory group with staff, parents and UCSB faculty.

“As a parent, and as the president of the foundation, I’m very disappointed,” he said.

“We have this UCSB field trip every year that was the most amazing thing ever, trying to prepare the kids for college — having elementary kids go to UCSB is really powerful,” he added. “It normally occurs in October, but it hasn’t occurred and there’s been no indication to my board — which pays for the field trip — that it was even happening this year. That was a big concern of mine.”

Despite the concerns, Robinson was confident the school would continue to make progress.

“It’s clear that he had too many challenges for somebody who was a veteran administrator,” Robinson said.

“What has happened, despite all of the lack of administrative leadership over the past few months, is that teachers have continued to exceed our expectations; these issues have not gone into the classroom and they continue to do a great job moving the school forward,” he said.

“This is just a little bump in the road.”

Harding University Partnership School is at 1625 Robbins St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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