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Local News

Santa Barbara Police Investigating Harding School Principal

Nuh Kimbwala
Nuh Kimbwala

Harding University Partnership School Principal Nuh Kimbwala, who was placed on paid leave last week, is being investigated by Santa Barbara police following child-abuse allegations of a nonsexual nature, according to a department spokesman.

“We responded on Friday and took a report with regard to an allegation of misdemeanor child abuse, not sexual in nature — that’s important to communicate,” said Sgt. Riley Harwood. “The case has been forwarded to our crimes-against-persons detail and they are looking into it.”

The incident with a student — which Harwood would not explain in any detail — happened earlier in the week, but the school initially reported it to Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services.

CWS recommended that Harding file a police report instead.

Kimbwala was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday for undisclosed reasons, and the Santa Barbara Unified School District announced that the assistant principal would be taking over his responsibilities effective on Friday.

On Monday, Emilio Handall, assistant superintendent of education, said the district does not know how long Kimbwala will be on leave, and that any internal investigation would be handled by the district’s Human Resources Department.

Kimbwala started work Aug. 6 after being unanimously recommended 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.

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

He reportedly didn’t have Spanish translation available for the Back to School night or hold meetings among the school’s committees and advisory groups.

“It’s clear that he had too many challenges for somebody who was a veteran administrator,” said Brian Robinson, president of the Harding School Foundation and a parent.

UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, which has forged a landmark partnership with the school on Santa Barbara’s Westside, said the development would not affect the collaboration.

“Be assured that the Gevirtz School, and therefore UCSB, stands by HUPS and will continue the partnership, from student teachers in the classrooms to the Family Strengths Center,” communications coordinator George Yatchisin said.

“The creation of the Harding University Partnership School is larger than any person, whether an administrator, teacher, parent or student. Improvement of an educational institution is a group effort — it can be nothing but — and the Gevirtz School is in this for the long haul.”

The annual UCSB field trip for Harding students doesn’t have a date yet, but will definitely happen for the 2012-2013 school year, he added.

Santa Barbara Teachers Association president Layne Wheeler said he is working with acting Principal Vanesha Davis to ensure a smooth, successful transition for now.

“SBTA is here to support the staff at Harding, and we have been working in an ongoing fashion with the staff,” he said. “We were concerned about student safety and staff support, and we wanted to make sure those things were in place.”

Harding University Partnership School is at 1625 Robbins St.

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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