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Principal’s absence disturbs parents

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Seven months after being placed on paid administrative leave, the principal of Baldwin High School remains off the job as the Department of Education continues an investigation.

DOE officials declined to discuss why Natalie Gonsalves was put on leave or when the investigation is expected to wrap up.

In the meantime, some Baldwin parents are expressing concerns over the prolonged leave, saying they are looking for closure on the matter — or at least more information on why the DOE took the big step of putting a principal on leave.

"It is very unusual," said Brandy Gaddis, who has two daughters at the Maui campus. "They’ve left everybody in the dark. I think parents have a right to know."

Gaddis and other parents added, though, that the school appears to be running well under an interim principal.

Bruce Anderson, district superintendent for the Maui complex, said he understands parents’ frustrations, but "the leave needs to continue until the issues have been resolved."

He added the investigation is a personnel matter.

Gonsalves could not be reached for comment, but shortly after being placed on leave May 20, she told The Maui News that the leave stemmed from a memo to parents of graduating seniors on instructions for commencement ceremonies.

Gonsalves did not say what was in the memo that might have prompted an investigation, but she did say the letter was the same as those sent in the past "with very few minor edits."

Gonsalves was principal of Honokaa High School before joining Baldwin in 2006. The DOE said Gonsalves’ salary range as a high school principal is between $105,551 and $124,417.

Parents say they do not like to see Baldwin High, which has about 1,600 students, without a permanent principal, but also say the situation does not appear to have affected students.

"Things are going good," said Dave Jorgensen, former co-chairman of Baldwin’s Project Grad and the father of a junior at the school. "I think families are generally happy."


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