School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

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School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support
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(Photo: John Palminteri of KEYT News)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District voted to demote San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens on Tuesday evening despite a strong showing of community support.

The meeting's venue switched to Marjorie Luke Theatre in anticipation of a large crowd. Starting at 5:00 p.m., the venue was nearly at capacity with parents, students, educators, and activists who spoke during the public comment portion. The majority of speakers were emphatically supportive of Behrens and his accomplishments at San Marcos High School.

"Mr. Behrens helped my daughter get accepted to three universities," said one parent. "We weren't even considering sending our child to San Marcos until Ed turned it around," said another.

Ed Behrens speaking on his on behalf during the meeting (Photo: John Palminteri of KEYT News)

Behrens came under fire after many felt a threatening message on social media targeting students was mishandled by administrators. Parents complained they were not promptly informed and put their targeted children at risk. Later the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department did not find an immediate threat but are continuing to investigate the matter.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, an online petition circulated to reinstate Behrens as Principal that gained over 2,500 signatures. Another group formed "SMHS Supporters of Ed" and released statements to local media outlets expressing their frustration with the school board. "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," the statement read.

Although Behrens garnered a strong support, one local activist group is more focused on the safety of San Marcos High School students, than the Principal's employment. PODER Santa Barbara issued a public statement on their Facebook page expressing their solidarity with the students who received death threats in the social media video. "We are sorry that some parents are choosing to make more of an effort to save Ed Behrens more than they are trying to listen to you when you say Ed Behrens has failed you," PODER wrote.

The statement continued to call upon the school board to select a new Principal who stands up for all students. "As we hear stories of Behrens’ failures and stories of Behrens’ successes, we recognize the glaring pattern of racially based disparity in his treatment of students and parents. PODER stands behind the School Board’s decision to replace Ed Behrens. We do not believe this is an end-all solution. However, we want to see a replacement who is culturally competent, who demonstrates accountability and follow through, and who has the courage to be a leader in difficult times not just for himself but for our kids."

After nearly three hours of public comments and deliberations, the majority vote of the school board ruled to continue with demoting Behrens. Largely being referred to as a "personnel matter" by the board, frustrated parents and students expressed their support of the veteran educator.

A recording of the meeting is available below thanks to a live Facebook feed from The Independent:

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oops Mar 15, 2018 04:23 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

Principles are are all the same- trying to protect their backsides at the cost of students. DP's principle is no better. She failed to act a couple years ago in a timely fashion when one of her coaches was bullying several of his players - well documented. Finally after enough complaints and another year of coaching he was forced to leave "to spend time with family" only to surface coaching at another local high school. Rather than look out for the kids as they all claim - they tacitly allow these folks to move from school to school without consequence.

nicholas Mar 15, 2018 01:47 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

Two things happened at the school board meeting this week. Ed Behrens was demoted from San Marcos High School and that act drew all the noise and attention. Meanwhile, after most of the parents had left the building, the REAL agenda became clear. After Mr. Behrens was demoted it was announced that John Becchio, the principal of Santa Barbara High School, was promoted to the superintendent's office so he will be leaving his post at Santa Barbara High School as well. Think about that. This Tuesday Cary Matsuoka cleared the path so HE can appoint two new handpicked principals to two of OUR three high schools. Let's watch what happens with DP next. Will that be a demotion or a promotion? Principals have a lot of power about how schools are run and can use that power suddenly and without warning. Your child might be in a program this year that you suddenly find no longer exists next fall. Bottom line is; Cary is playing 3-D chess while we are just chasing our tails debating narrow issues. He has already set up the legal mechanisms to profoundly remake our schools along the lines of his own highly political agenda while we are all distracted bickering and divided. Make no mistake about it. Superintendent Matsuoka has come down to our town from the Bay Area with a radical agenda. He has power and he is not afraid to use it. We were so comfortable and complacent in the past that three of our five school board members "automatically" joined the board as they ran unopposed. And if you don't believe me check it for yourselves. There was NEVER a vote for those three as nobody else wanted to run. The forth one was appointed by Cary because a seat became vacant outside of the election period. The FACT is there is only ONE elected school board member currently serving on our board. So Cary, with the aid of a largely UNELECTED school board, now has a clear run to take a wrecking ball to the status quo of our schools and there is not a thing we can legally do about it right now. Or indeed until the next school board election. Our only hope is to vote some of these unelected board members out in November. And don't think this is just about our high schools. He is tinkering with the leadership in our elementary and middle schools as well. Come on people..if you love or even like our school district get WOKE and find out how to vote in our next school board election. If you hate our schools and want to see them fundamentally changed from the bottom up then you can just sit back and relax. Cary's got your back!

a-1545007214 Mar 16, 2018 08:54 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

So sorry to hear about your experience but in light of recent events, hardly surprising. Thank you for sharing this. Hopefully we can energize others to put themselves forward and run for the two vulnerable board seats coming up in November plus inspire voters to make their voices heard this time around.

a-1545007214 Mar 16, 2018 06:52 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

As one of the individuals who was fired personally by Matsuoka, I absolutely agree with you. Before his appearance on the scene, my work had been award-winning, but when he arrived, I became one of the many targeted by him. In my entire career no one has ever treated me in such a disrespectful and dismissive manner; it took me a long time to get over the personal and professional humiliation at his hand, and I really feel for Ed and how he had to go through that in public. But it's the students who are really suffering from what he's doing. And getting away with it with this school board that he owns while he pockets $300,000+ of our taxpayer money.

nicholas Mar 16, 2018 12:32 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

Thank you so much for sharing my take on the current state of our school district. Long before the SMHS threat occurred ; I would occasionally watch videos of SB school board meetings since I felt remiss as a parent, not attending those meetings. And, as time went by, I began to feel uneasy about Mr. Matsuoka, some of his assistants, some members of his unelected board, and some speakers at those meetings that hailed from dedicated political groups in our community. Nothing concrete. Just this sense that an insidious agenda was creeping in but it was opaque and certainly not something I felt I could, or even should, express in public. It was just a feeling. But after the events of last Tuesday all became clear. My husband who attended that meeting said it "felt like Soviet Russia in there". Some have laughed at my concerns on this forum and believe me I sincerely hope they are right and I am wrong!

a-1545007214 Mar 15, 2018 09:48 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

Well said!! I have cut and pasted and credited your comments to the SMHS Supporters of Ed Behrens facebook page. Everyone needs to take notice of what you are saying. By the way, I stayed to the end of the meeting and I was shocked that it went from a demotion to a promotion. And boy did Cary Matsuoka demeanor change. He was all smiles.... No evil eyes or middle fingers after he got rid of the parents...

pstarSR Mar 14, 2018 07:42 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

Does anyone not see the irony of this? They were unhappy with him for not “communicating”. Yet when asked why they came to the decision to demote him they said nothing. Dodging the question. “It’s a personal matter”, nothing personal about smeering him on a live stream, during a public meeting in front of parents and kids.

pstarSR Mar 15, 2018 08:48 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

yea the page is called " the independent", a local newspaper. A public meeting, demoting a principal with listing of "issues" is totally a smeer tactic, one that they did not explain afterwards what made them choose to follow through. if you believe that private matters are private you should have also stood with Ed because while the parents were chanting for the kids names and kids to be arrested he ( and law enforcement ) continued keeping it "private". Yet he was demoted because of "not communicating". yeah, doesnt make sense to me.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 10:11 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

Umm, you do realize, as with any employer but in particular a School District, that they are PROHIBITED from commenting about the reasons for personnel actions.....as for “livestream” i believe a Facebook page livestreamed him...not sure what the “smeer” was......

Roger Mar 14, 2018 04:27 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

I think PODER did a good thing by standing up for kids put by the way side... I'm sure there were more things involved for the school board to make the decision that they did. Hopefully in the future everyone could come together and work things out instead of putting others down.

O1604 Mar 14, 2018 01:03 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

I agree and support the decision made by the School Board, Ed Behrens was put in a position to uphold school policies and protect the students. One year ago, I posted on Edhat an incident my son had at SMHS, it was about a student that made threats of killing my son as well as another female student, he also brandished a knife. His own parents reported him to Administration over their concern for my son and the other students safety. A police report was filed the same day, my son fully cooperated w/the school and the authorities, he did everything the school ask students to do if they are being harassed or threatened. The same student who self disclosed/confessed that he had a knife at school and made a valid threat to want to KILL my son was suspended for 3 days, (school policy does no allow Admin to disclose what type of disciplinary action was taken), we only knew because the parents of the boy were very forthcoming about their son returning back to school and what precautions my son should take should their son harass him again. On the very day he returned to SMHS he threw a glass bottle at my sons head just barely missing him. My son immediately called me, I frantically called the school and after waiting for 15 mins they informed me that someone had already unanimously reported that this kid had a knife on him again, I called the aggressors father and we were both on campus within minutes. My son got into a physical altercation with this boy, after another student took the knife from him. My son who had never been in any trouble, was suspended for five days, & referred to Juvenile Probation, the student that took the knife from the assailant was suspended for one day, (he should have received a medal of honor). Once in the office the treatment from Ed Behrens was appalling to say the least, he spoke down to us in an open area, it was clear he did not know the events that lead up to the altercation, he's the principal I mean clearly he should have known my son was a victim! Ben Drati was the Superintendent of Students at the time and concluded in closing his investigation that SMHS missed some steps in protecting my son, and for not following their policy for zero tolerance to bullying and harassing, but again they could not disclose how they addressed these issues, Juvenile Probation could not make sense of the two conflicting police reports that were filed, they immediately new my son was wronged.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 01:40 PM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

This is just one of the many similar stories about Behrens and his flaws. Like another commenter said, we don't know all the facts of his demotion and the Board might have other information that wasn't spoken at the open meeting.

Factotum Mar 14, 2018 11:08 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

His record of proven accomplishments is admirable. Now he will never get another job anywhere. Thank you Ms Capps for being a vote of reason. May others soon join you on the SBUSD school board. Yes, it does matter who gets elected even to your local school boards.

SoCalMommy Mar 14, 2018 10:56 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

This is a damn shame. A horrific public scapegoating of a good man. Mr. Behrens was my principal and he was firm, fair and respectful. He expects the best from his students because he knows they are capable of it. The kids who disliked him were the ones who were constantly acting out and causing trouble; of course they disliked him! Nearly 20 years after graduating (eeks.) I still have fond memories of Mr. B. The Board should be ashamed.

Samazing Mar 14, 2018 11:45 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

You’re wrong. A lot of the kids who dislike him were treated unfairly by him. In what world do high school students not get in occasional trouble? It’s really surprising how so many people seem to chalk up dislike for Eddie to being a problem child. I did well in high school, and had great relationships with many teachers and administrators. What I cannot abide, however, is authoritarianism.

Don Lubach Mar 14, 2018 10:30 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

The headine for this news item concerns me. As the son, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, and friend to great teachers, I object to use of the term "demoted to a teaching position" in reference to this personnel matter. Great administrators are nearly always great teachers. Teaching is not a demotion. Don Lubach

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 09:00 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

What people seem to be missing is that the School Board never explicitly said why Behrens was demoted. None of you have all that facts except you're assuming it's because of the social media threat. For all we know, he could have done some shady stuff behind closed doors that board is keeping quiet. And props to PODER for being the ONLY voice standing up for students and recognizing that Behrens has flaws while most people have put him on a pedestal without all the facts or information.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 09:55 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

But it's not like PODER is a group of adults doing this alone. They have San Marcos students behind them. There are groups on either side is what they're pointing out. Behrens has a strong support but he also has critiques who feel he should be replaced. It's just a balanced perspective.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 09:28 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

The students who were threatened during the previous incident were in support of keeping Principal Behrens. That is very telling of the situation's overblown nature. PODER is inserting itself where it doesn't belong, to defend students who are not asking for, nor need, their defense. I'm all for news which presents both sides, but PODER really has no business here.

Samazing Mar 14, 2018 08:30 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

I attended SMHS for four years and graduated in 2001. Lil Eddie was a horror of a Vice Principal. He was clearly out to punish students and enjoyed it. He prowled around looking for reasons to bust kids and cast a shadow of fear over the school. That is not how professional educators work. During my senior year, some friends and I were involved in a prank “war.” While the other group of students did actually vandalize, we never did. We brought our own materials and basically did installations of silly things we’d made at home. We made a point of not damaging any property. The morning after we put up a tarp with “PRANK” written on it on the baseball backstop (with wire we broight from home) I saw the janitors in cherry pickers taking it down. An hour later, having been pulled from class and brought to Lil Eddie’s office, he told me he personally had climbed the backstop to take the tarp down. I told him he was lying, and that I had seen the janitors doing it barely an hour earlier. He didn’t appreciate it. The man should not be working with kids. I speak from experience when I say that he uses his position to settle some ancient beef he has with whomever picked on him as a kid. This demotion is fantastic news for the well being of SMHS students. Eddie ought to be washing dishes in the cafeteria if he’s allowed to stay at all. He is grade A scumbag material.

Samazing Mar 14, 2018 09:28 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

You missed the point. Eddie is dishonest and creates a culture of fear. Of course kids make trouble in high school. How that trouble is dealt with matters. I got busted by Paul Sirca (spelled wrong I’m sure) and Ms Christiansen, but I respected them because of how they handled it. They listened. They were honest, and I took my punishment without losing an ounce of respect for them. Lil Eddie lied and clearly enjoyed piling on punishment. He’s an authoritarian and has no compassion. He shouldn’t be working with kids.

Samazing Mar 14, 2018 09:58 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

You missed the point. Eddie is dishonest and creates a culture of fear. Of course kids make trouble in high school. How that trouble is dealt with matters. I got busted by Paul Sirca (spelled wrong I’m sure) and Ms Christiansen, but I respected them because of how they handled it. They listened. They were honest, and I took my punishment without losing an ounce of respect for them. Lil Eddie lied and clearly enjoyed piling on punishment. He’s an authoritarian and has no compassion. He shouldn’t be working with kids.

pstarSR Mar 14, 2018 08:52 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

so a principle punished you as a kid, now you think he's a scumbag. yet you admitted to doing something disruptive to school. which as a principal he is supposed to punish for things like that. I hated my principal too, but I realize my hatred towards him was only because I put myself in his crosshairs, I made myself a target for his discipline. In every relationship, there are two actors. You are not innocent. You even gave us the evidence.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 08:04 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

The terrible decision by this 4/5 unelected school board that can't stand up to this out-of-town bureaucrat who is so clearly out-of-touch with this community. What has been done to Ed in such a public way is just the latest humiliation that has happened to far too many very fine individuals who were dedicated to providing educational opportunity to our students, but he either intimidated into leaving or outright let them go. And this is the same team that decided to close Open Alternative School without convening a study group to even look at options, despite the pleas of the public. After two years, he's really put his stamp on this district, and it's devoid of understanding of Santa Barbara. Ironic that PODER is supporting this decision when so many Latinas (many with Ph.D.s which he doesn't have) have been forced out of high-profile jobs with the district under Cary's reign.

sbres Mar 14, 2018 08:01 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

I am wondering why the principal at LaCumbre Junior High has not been "demoted." There is concrete evidence that she consistently breaks District policy, bullies staff at her school and the school she shares a site with and yet she continues to keep her position. It appears that Mr. Behrens is being "used" as a scapegoat here.

CivilEngineer Mar 15, 2018 10:03 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

The principal at La Cumbre has improved the students' performance on standardized tests and done outreach to the local community. So unless there is a specific incident that she can be demoted on, she is going to stay. If you have concrete evidence, please share it.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 07:32 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

SMHS has had a long string of ineffective principals. Mr. Behrens was the most effective one in a long time. If in fact he did make mistakes regarding the handling of the school threats, I'd think he'd have learned from his mistakes and be in a better position to manage the school moving forward. I thought teachers were instructed to teach students to learn from their mistakes. Shouldn't the same thing apply to staff? Instead of a smarter/wiser Mr. Behrens, SMHS will probably get stuck with another ineffective principal, resuming the previous paradigm.

Robert247 Mar 14, 2018 06:48 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

This is not a big mistake. Read through what PODER has said. At least they recognize the fact that he has had failures along with his successes. Unfortunately his failures have left many students behind and in fear. The principal is supposed to represent all students. Not just the ones he favors. Ill say this again too, this guy spent way too much time with the girls volleyball and softball teams and families. I'm a man and understand his MO perfectly. It is also convenient that he wears his sunglasses even when in dark classrooms. I had two kids go through SM while he was there both as assistant and principal. One child was constantly admonished sometimes rightfully so and other times not. The other child was never admonished as he never did anything to get in trouble. His remark when he heard he might be demoted....Its about time. The guy would pass me in the hall and say "whats up bro". We know what's up bro. Time for you to step down. Should be immediate, but the heart of the people on the board have given him a reprieve to serve out this year.

a-1545007214 Mar 14, 2018 06:26 AM
School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support

The school board is supposed to represent the public in overseeing the school system. So why would they take this action over the wishes of the vast majority of the public that they are supposed to be serving? And what does this PODER have to do with running the school system? I wonder if we will ever find out the answer to "why" Behrens was fired.

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