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Jefferson Middle School Principal Will Not Return

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Jefferson Middle School Principal Tequila Kurth, who has been on an extended leave of absence since January, will not return to the school district, district officials announced Friday.

Kurth had served as principal of Jefferson since 2018. She came under fire in December 2019, after a student shot another student with a pellet gun, and another pellet gun was brought to school again the next day. Parents complained about a lack of communication regarding the incidents.

However, Kurth wrote in a letter to Jefferson families Friday that she was not in school either of the days those incidents occurred, and did not write the emails to parents that bore her name.

“Some people used an incident that occurred on December 3, 2019, to attack my leadership, integrity and honesty,” she wrote.. “On the school bus ride home that afternoon, a student shot a peer with a BB gun. An e­ mail was sent to Jefferson families regarding the incident and a sentence within it left a few people accusing me of lying. The portion of the email stated ‘At this time we do not have any reason to believe the student intended to harm anyone with it.’ At the time, I felt it was my duty to keep silent. Today, I would like the truth to be known. I did not write that messaging and I did not have the opportunity to approve it before it was sent out in my name. I was traveling out of town to a family member’s funeral on December 3, 2019 when the pellet gun issue was being addressed, and I was with family all day, including attending that funeral, on December 4, 2019.”

Subsequently, someone at the school released the discipline records of the student involved to local media, which district officials said was a violation of federal law. Further, Kurth has alleged that someone anonymously waged a campaign of email harassment at her for months afterward.

“One or more persons hiding behind anonymity released the disciplinary records of a student involved in the BB gun shooting,” Kurth wrote. “While hiding behind anonymity for months, they have been engaging in a campaign of harassment targeting me, sending me scores of bizarre, threatening emails. It has gotten to the point where, for months, I have legitimately feared for my safety.”

Both of those incidents are still under investigation, Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Timothy LeMonds said in an email Friday.

Kurth said that harassment and other factors led to her taking a medical leave beginning January 13. In her letter to parents she notes that she was not in school on January 15 when another disciplinary incident occurred. The district announced her extended leave on January 16, the time of which might have led some to connect the January 15 event with her going on leave.

“On January 13, 2020, I began a Family Medical Leave for health issues related to the campaign of harassment to which I have been subjected. I was not in school at all that week and, therefore, was not aware of this (January 15) incident despite the implied or inferred messaging in the media,” she wrote.

Kurth ended her letter on a positive note.

“The word ‘love’ is not often used in education. However, I say for the first time in all of my years as a Principal that I truly love you, I love you, I love you…and I look forward to hearing about your greatness in the years to come,” she wrote.

Mary Kelley has been serving as interim principal at Jefferson but will return to retirement at the end of the school year, LeMonds said.

“We plan on communicating information to families on the hiring process for the next Jefferson Principal in upcoming weeks,” LeMonds wrote in an email. “Additionally, Superintendent Jane Belmore will be meeting with Jefferson staff on Monday afternoon to reaffirm the districts support to Jefferson for the remainder of the year, and to answer staff questions on next steps.”

Kurth did not immediately respond to a message from Madison365.