FREMONT — A group of Mission San Jose Elementary School parents, convinced that their principal is being forced to transfer to another campus, picketed outside the school Tuesday.

However, Bonnie Curtis, who became principal in fall 2008, said that it was her decision to accept the new assignment at Durham Elementary, whose principal is retiring midyear.

The school board is scheduled to vote in closed session before tonight's regular meeting whether to approve the transfer.

"It's true. I'm sad to leave Mission San Jose Elementary, but it was not a forced transfer. "... Ultimately, it was my decision," Curtis said.

"She was talked to by several (district) people because of her interests and skills and background. She's the most qualified person, and she knows it," added Steve Betando, assistant superintendent of human resources,

Durham is the only school in the district in "program improvement," a label that means students must demonstrate adequate progress in subsequent years or the school risks facing government intervention.

Curtis did her student-teaching at Durham and previously worked as a literacy coach there, making her familiar with the campus, Betando said.

"She was asked if she would accept the position. If she didn't, we could have opened it up, asked someone else. "... (It) was her choice," Betando said.


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However, Greg Green, an active parent volunteer, thinks the district "strong-armed" Curtis into accepting the transfer, citing a letter the principal had written to parents in which she announced that she was "being called upon" to head another school. Curtis also stated in the letter, "It is an honor to be singled out by FUSD as the person they most want to head this team. It does not make my leaving MSJE any easier, unfortunately."

"The whole inference is, 'I'm stepping up to the position.' "... If the district forced her to do this, she would make it work," Green said. He and other parents lauded Curtis as a professional who would make the best of any situation, but they insist that she does not want to leave her current school.

Participants of Tuesday's picket estimated that about 100 people rallied after school.

Parents said that staff members and students still are healing from a divisive campus under the last principal, Mildred Byrd, whose contract was not renewed at the end of the 2007-08 academic year. That year, some parents pulled their children out of school for two days while on "strike" against Byrd.

A temporary principal was called in before Curtis was named the school's permanent leader. If she transfers to Durham, an interim principal will be assigned to Mission San Jose Elementary.

"Now, when we finally have stability, the district is yanking her from the school," Green said. "Some of the kids have known nothing but upheaval (the last few years)."

Reach Linh Tat at 510-353-7010. Follow her tweets at twitter.com/Linh_Tat and her blog posts at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.