A former Sweetwater Union High School District principal said misconduct allegations brought against him by teachers were politically motivated.
The allegations spurred a $50,000 investigation that resulted in the district taking no action toward Robert “Bobby” Bleisch, a former Castle Park Middle School principal who faced a host of anonymous allegations earlier this year.
District spokesman Manny Rubio said he couldn’t discuss the nature of the allegations since it’s a personnel matter.
Rubio said about 70 people, including teachers and district employees, were interviewed for the investigation over a six-week period. Bleisch was made aware of the findings July 28.
Although the allegations remain anonymous, Castle Park teacher Diane Ince publicly accused Bleisch of creating a hostile working environment and several media outlets reported from sources that Bleisch had allegedly misused Associated Student Body funds.
Granger Jr. High School teacher Jennifer Cochrane-Shultz and teacher Kris Elam spoke out at school board meetings saying that they heard about the ex-principal sexually harassing colleagues, although no one had come forward.
“They (accusers) had a campaign to discredit me which is not much different than a political campaign to attack an opponent,” Bleisch said.
Bleisch, 46, said he became the target of the Sweetwater teachers union because of his involvement with Stephen W. Hawking Charter School, a pre-K-12 charter that was to reside on the campus of Castle Park Middle.
Bleisch said it was a small group of teachers who opposed the charter that went after him.
“There’s no question that in my mind this charter school had everything to do with the smear campaign and with this investigation,” he said. “When you’re talking about people that were disgruntled on the campus, you’re talking about five people. Five teachers that were allowed and actually encouraged to continue their agenda and try to motivate other teachers to turn against me.”
Sweetwater Education Association President Roberto Rodriguez said that he just learned about the investigation results when contacted by The Star-News for an interview.
He said he couldn’t comment on the results until he read the final report.
However, Rodriguez said the charter school wasn’t the sole reason for the accusations.
“I would say that they were probably much more serious complaints from staff members than just the charter school,” he said. “I don’t think you can just point at the charter school.”
The whole ordeal, Bleisch said, cost him about $50,000 of sick time and personal time used, and about $10,000 in attorney fees.
Bleisch’s attorney, Bob Ottilie, said the accusers put their own personal agendas before the kids at the school.
“This was a man who was changing children’s lives at that school, yet certain individuals attempted to derail this man,” Ottilie said. “It’s a shame that the district went without Bobby’s services for about five months.”
Castle Park science teacher Daniel Frank said he believes there was a conspiracy to get Bleisch out.
He also said Bleisch’s presence is missed on campus.
“You had an inspiring leader, you had a guy who made it so fun to be here and he’s gone,” Frank said. “The school is deflated.”
Bleisch said he had learned about the allegations when he was reassigned to the district office on Feb. 11.
He said initially he thought he was being called into the district office to discuss the charter school because he had requested a meeting with then-superintendent Dr. Ed Brand to express concerns of not being allowed to promote the charter school.
But that wasn’t the case.
“That’s when I had first found out that an anonymous letter had been sent by somebody to the district and that they had made the decision to reassign me,” he said.
Bleisch said he wanted to promote the charter school because he wanted to clear up any misconceptions that were being spread about the charter school.
Bleisch described the accusations as “devastating” and said it took a toll on his family.
He said his mother took the accusations hard and his daughter cried when she saw Bleisch’s name in the local news.
Bleisch said if he were guilty of any wrongdoings, he wouldn’t have a clean record.
“A lot of the things that they were saying were kind of procedural things that I had supposedly done, but yet that made no sense because I was never grieved one time by the teachers union in the three years I was there. ”
“If the teachers felt the school was not a positive culture and they felt that we were doing all these wrong things, how come they didn’t grieve me?”
Rodriguez said the union only files grievances if there are contract violations.
Bleisch said the anonymous letter of accusations and the reassignment to the district office took him by surprise.
Bleisch submitted a resignation letter Feb. 18 that was effective at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Bleisch said he resigned from his position because the school board had intended to demote him. In his resignation letter, Bleisch also indicated he was resigning to pursue an advanced degree, which he said he is.
He also left the door open to return to the district and said he doesn’t know what his plans are now.
“The old school board did take action to have him back as a classroom teacher if he does decide to come back,” Rubio said.
Rubio said Bleisch is currently on an unpaid leave of absence with the district.
Bleisch said he requested to see the final report of the investigation but the district didn’t allow him to see it.
He said the district told him that it wasn’t necessary since they concluded no action was being taken.