Ed Behrens

Ed Behrens

Nearly 2,300 people have signed an online petition to save San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens’ job. 

The Santa Barbara Unified School District administration reportedly has recommended that Behrens be demoted from his position as principal on June 30, 2018.

The district’s board of trustees will decide Behrens’ fate in a closed-session special meeting on Tuesday night. 

In response, a group of San Marcos High parents has mobilized in support of Behrens, who has worked at the district since 1991 and at San Marcos as assistant principal and principal for more than two decades.

The district has taken a hush-hush posture over the situation, but parents at the school informed the media that Superintendent Cary Matsuoka told Behrens he will be demoted from principal and offered a teaching position with a dramatic pay cut, or resignation, at the end of the school year.

The parents believe the move is the result of a social media threat investigation in January.

“Supporters of Mr. Behrens believe that he has been made the scapegoat for the embarrassment brought upon the school district when concerned parents raised important questions regarding the district’s lack of a well-defined threat management and communication plan to handle cyber threats,” according to Marcy Wimbish, PTSA president. “The concerned San Marcos community is seeking a dialogue with the superintendent and the Santa Barbara School District school board to assess options to retain Mr. Behrens as the principal at San Marcos High School.”

The social media threat investigation involved a group of male students who made chat room posts that listed female students and derogatory and vulgar descriptions of them, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators also looked into a threatening video that was created by a male student with what appears to be an antique musket

Matsuoka hosted a public meeting to discuss the threat investigation and the district’s reaction. He was largely panned by the parents in the room over the district’s handling of the events.  

Parents credit Behrens with boosting enrollment 18 percent since 2012 – from 1,858 to 2,192 — and reversing a long trend of declining student numbers.

The number of students classified as English learners decreased from 20.3 percent of all students in 2012 to only 12.7 percent.

Parents also cite the school’s 22 CIF academic championships, the highest GPA among sports teams in CIF Southern Section, approximately 600 schools, and had the highest GPA among all Southern Section schools for student-athletes in 2015.

In addition, the Royal Pride Foundation, started under Behren’s leadership, has raised more than $3 million for San Marcos programs and facilities.

“The board would make an enormous mistake by demoting, essentially firing, (Behrens),” the parents’ web site state.

According to its online agenda, the special board meeting is scheduled at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Marjorie Luke Theater at Santa Barbara Junior High School, 721 E. Cota St.

At that time, the board will take public comments on closed-session agenda items, including “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release.”

The board will then move into closed session before returning to handle regular business.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.