Desert Vista High principal to retire - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Desert Vista High principal to retire

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Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2005 7:15 am | Updated: 10:11 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Embattled Desert Vista High School principal Joe McDonald will retire at the completion of his contract in June, according to a statement released Friday by the Tempe Union High School District.

McDonald worked as an assistant dean of students and associate athletic director at Arizona State University before becoming principal of Desert Vista when the school opened in 1996.

Throughout his time as principal, he has received positive performance evaluations.

But Desert Vista parents and former faculty members and staff have accused McDonald of discrimination, violation of special education laws, selective enforcement of attendance policies, giving preferential treatment to student athletes, wrongful termination and harassment. Complaints first surfaced in 2001.

Frustrated Ahwatukee Foothills parents began purchasing advertisements this summer for $400 apiece in a community newspaper to vent their concerns.

Ken Altman, one of the parents who funded the ad campaign, said he believes McDonald’s decision to retire was "helped along by the district" due to the various allegations.

"Concerned parents have not let up," he said. "This has caused a lot of distraction in the school district."

Altman removed his daughter from the school after a dispute last school year with Desert Vista administrators, but he has remained active in the campaign against the district. He said McDonald’s retirement will not stop his crusade.

"This is the first step," he said. "The next step is replacement of the entire district."

In 2001, Desert Vista assistant principal Jane Jones accused McDonald of fixing grades for a student athlete so she could qualify for an NCAA scholarship.

A year after Jones complained, McDonald gave her the first negative evaluation of her career. She was subsequently fired on McDonald’s recommendation for not being a "team player."

While Jones said she was glad to hear of McDonald’s retirement, she said "it has taken too long for the board to take action."

"He has consistently displayed unethical leadership," Jones said. "His tenure at Desert Vista will be forever tainted."

Jones has a wrongful termination lawsuit pending in Maricopa County Superior Court.

McDonald also said in the statement: "It is now time for new challenges and greater opportunities." He did not return phone calls for further comment.

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