Santa Ynez Valley Union High School
An “eggscellent” joke signals the start of spring break for Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, which is now searching for a new principal after getting a new superintendent and two board members in the past year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After losing a superintendent and two school board members in less than a year, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District also will say goodbye to its principal.

The district has started advertising to fill the vacancy after choosing not to keep Michele Borges.

Borges arrived in July 2020, replacing long-time Principal Mark Swanitz, whose contract wasn’t renewed. She previously served as a principal in Tulare.

“We have initiated the search for a new principal at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School,” Superintendent Andrew Schwab told Noozhawk last week. “Michele Borges will be serving as principal through the end of the school year.

“We are not able to discuss personnel decisions or specific reasons for this leadership change. We look forward to keeping our community informed as we move through this process.”

The school board met in special session on March 9 with a closed session for a personnel matter. The meeting was convened just days before the March 15 deadline to notify employees if they will be retained for the next school year.

Although the district has provided online recordings of recent meetings, there is no YouTube video for the open session of the March 9 meeting, including a report on actions taken in closed session.

The opening was posted March 17, spelling out the job description and qualifications for applicants.

The search for a new principal surprised some social media users.

Borges, who referred a reporter to Schwab, was hired while Superintendent Scott Cory led the district. However, he left last summer and now works as human resources director for the Plumas County School District.

The prior administration of Cory and Swanitz had served together for eight years.

Schwab, who is in his first year leading the district, had most recently served as associate superintendent of learning and innovation at the Union School District in San José.

Those aren’t the only changes for the district.

In less than a year, the five-member board also has seen two members leave.

At the beginning of the Jan. 18 meeting, trustee Stephen Luke resigned — 13 months into his four-year term — after expressing frustration about the process of serving on a five-member panel.

During his nine-minute departure speech, he said “it’s starting to affect my mental health.”

“I think I’m slowly going insane so I need to step back, and I apologize to everyone who voted for me,” he said. “I apologize to the students here. Most of all, I apologize to my kids for walking away, but for my mental health at this point, I need to.”

Luke claimed the district stifles communication and open dialogue, contending it was a leftover trait from the previous administration.

In March after interviewing three applicants, the school board appointed Ness Hamaoui, a general contractor and developer, to fill the vacancy.

Hamaoui has served on the Los Olivos School District board and has two children attending Santa Ynez High.

In June, trustee John Baeke announced his intent to leave before his four-year term was set to end.

Baeke had been at the center of controversy for a blog post criticizing a teacher, leading to his board colleagues voting to censure him.

The remaining four board members decided to appoint Loren Ollenburger to fill the remainder of Baeke’s term, which will end later this year.

The five-member board will have four terms on the ballot for the November election, which also will mark the first time voters will choose representatives in different areas of the district.

The district, which has a comprehensive high school plus a continuation school, serves the entire Santa Ynez Valley and has six feeder districts — Ballard, Buellton, College, Los Olivos, Solvang and Vista del Mar.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.