An older white man along with a picture of a T-shirt with the words "you're fired" on it

Public’s Cries to ‘Keep Kibby’ Come Too Late as School Board Demotes Principal

An older white man along with a picture of a T-shirt with the words "you're fired" on it

Pinole Valley High principal Kibby Kleiman spoke in his daily school announcement the day after the West Contra Costa school board voted to reassign him, which he called “the worst and best night of my life.” (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

The virtual and in-person crowd of 400, much of them there to save one man, was too late. Before chants of “Keep Kibby” broke out and over two hours of pleas, the West Contra Costa school board had already made their decision. 

The school board voted during closed session to reassign Pinole Valley High School principal Kibby Kleiman to a classroom assignment at the end of the school year for “reasons not related to reductions in service levels or lack of funds.” Only Trustee Leslie Reckler voted against the move. 

Kleiman did not respond to a request for comment but briefly spoke about the meeting in his daily announcement for PVHS on Thursday.

“I want to say, yesterday, I experienced in some ways the worst and best night of my life,” Kleiman said in the announcement. “Losing this job, which means everything to me, is more than outweighed by the words of kindness, support, people showing up.” 

Trustees cannot share discussions that happen during closed sessions, so the reasoning behind Kleiman’s reassignment was not clear. Still, the crowd asked the board to reconsider the reassignment of an educator who has worked at WCCUSD since 1988. 

“Kibby Kleinman is in the pantheon of greatness,” said teacher Janet Headington. “Please, we’re imploring you: Do not retraumatize our student body with one more…inexplicable loss.” 

PVHS student Emmi Ng called her principal well-loved and respected before putting it simply: “We want him here.” 

(Video by Ling Hsieh / used with permission)

Community members called the principal, who has been in his position since 2013, the heart of the school. Students and parents say he knows the names of everyone at the school of over 1,200, goes to every game and event and is the reason many have succeeded.

A day before the vote, community members created a petition to keep Kleiman as the school’s principal. 

“This potential loss would be devastating for our community and our students will be greatly impacted,” the petition reads. “We believe that retaining Mr. Kleiman as principal is crucial for maintaining the positive momentum we’ve gained over recent years.” 

The petition has since gained over 1,000 supporters. 

Students who spoke at the meeting said a walkout in support of Kleiman was in place but did not happen. 

>>>Read: Parents and Teachers Stand Up for Ellerhorst Principal

Many from the school’s community criticized the board, particularly its representative, President Jamela Smith-Folds, for going against the community’s wishes. 

“I no longer trust this board to make decisions on my behalf,” said Susyn Normington, a member of the PVHS community. “You have already lost the trust of a community.”

Reed MacLaren, a junior at PVHS who spoke in support of Kleiman,  created a petition calling for the recall of Smith-Folds. 

“This action directly went against the wishes of the people she is supposed to be representing and this action cannot be forgiven,” MacLaren writes in the petition. “If Trustee Smith-Folds isn’t recalled it will allow for her to continue to make horrible decisions regarding our community and our future.”

Some during and after the meeting were unsure if Kleiman’s reassignment had been voted on yet and thought the time to speak on the item was at the beginning of open session, which was after the vote had taken place. 

Superintendent Kenneth Hurst, at the request of Smith-Folds, gave another closed session report during public comment to clarify the vote had already taken place. 

The same speakers asking for clarification later criticized the board for being “disingenuous” and uninterested in what they had to say on the reassignment. Hurst was specifically called out by a member of the public, Annette, for having side conversations with others during public comment. 

Trustee Mister Phillips said at the end of the meeting that he understands the public has a right to public comment, but he has the right to not listen to it, referring to a comment where board members were called “buffoons.” 

In response to the decision made by the board, PVHS students part of Project Student Advocacy said on Instagram that a rally in support of Kleiman will take place on March 13 starting at 8:30 a.m.

“As the leading advocacy group at PV, we are trying to organize a support rally in disagreement of this unjust ruling,” the post reads. 

The next West Contra Costa school board meeting is March 20.

  • Linda Kerr
    Posted at 18:13h, 08 March

    School boards don’t fire people for no reason. By law, they have to have very good reasons.
    What is wasting money recalling board members going to do? It won’t bring the principal back.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 06:58h, 09 March

    They have to have good reasons to fire people. But Principal Kleiman was demoted, not fired.

  • Kellie Maclaren
    Posted at 18:50h, 09 March

    Is there was a good reason then why would they he be reassigned to a teaching position? Obviously it wasn’t anything illegal or they would not be offering a teaching position.

  • Kellie Maclaren
    Posted at 18:50h, 09 March

    Is there was a good reason then why would he be reassigned to a teaching position? Obviously it wasn’t anything illegal or they would not be offering a teaching position.

  • Pat Dornan
    Posted at 15:45h, 10 March

    He was not fired. He was demoted in hopes he will retire. Reduction in Force is when the board lets teachers go with least seniority and for tht there is no reason other than saving money for more administrators.

  • Scottie Smith
    Posted at 11:25h, 12 March

    I agree with Linda. Also, the principal have the right to discuss with anyone the reason that was given for his firing. He has internal and external rights to fight what he believes to be an unfair dismissal, therefore, why waste time and money when the person does not speak, and none of us know what happen.

  • Mr. Merlin
    Posted at 16:25h, 18 March

    I suspect there are deeper, darker, reasons for the board’s actions, having to do with DEI, and Free Palestine. Maybe I am wrong, but why else would WCCUSD slap the man. I enjoyed Kibby’s wit and benefited from his wisdom while I taught Social Sciences at Richmond High. I also experienced first-hand the results of poking the wrong bear at the District.

  • John
    Posted at 07:18h, 20 March

    Mr. Merlin you are not incorrect. It’s obvious.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 18:51h, 23 March

    “Cries to keep Kibby come too late?” How else can they come when the demotion was done behind closed doors prior to public comments being heard?

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 20:33h, 09 May

    I believe that many people are under the impression Kibby was demoted_ Unfortunately, no the district is not being transparent by allowing community to believe that Kibby was demoted.

    If anyone really wants the truth (ask the person this decision affects the most (Kibby. We need LEADERSHIP in place that places our children, parents and community first. Kibby has gained the love and respect of his students and replacing him now is a huge mistake.

    Hoping the children don’t suffer any adverse effects by this decision by the district.. It is clearly obvious we need new leadership at the district (Ie: Trustees).

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