Nuh Kimbwala

The principal of Harding University Partnership School, Nuh Kimbwala, was removed from his post Friday and Assistant Principal Vanesha Davis will be assuming leadership of the school, the Santa Barbara district said in a press release.

Davis has only been employed by the district for three weeks since she joined the Harding staff as an assistant principal. Previously she worked in South Central Los Angeles as a literacy coach, teacher, and administrator. She speaks Spanish fluently. Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, Emilio Handall, said, “We think she is going to be able to perform the duties during this time.” He was not sure whether the district would begin a search for a new principal or not.

While nobody would comment on the record about the circumstance that precipitated Kimbwala’s replacement, parents at Harding became disillusioned with him almost immediately after the academic year began. He was hired late in the summer to replace outgoing principal Sally Kingston who had instituted an IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum, a partnership with UCSB, and a host of programs supported by foundations and nonprofits.

Although Harding is sometimes described as an elementary school on steroids, Susan Rakov, founding president of the Harding School Foundation, did not believe that the intricacies of the particular job led to Kimbwala’s disappointing performance. “It’s not like you needed a genius. We had a plan. We knew what we were doing.

“Mr. Kimbwala was just not up to the standards that the Harding community had come to expect,” said Rakov. “From day one, he didn’t communicate with parents, get out on the playgrounds, or visit the classrooms.” When she met with him, Rakov said, “he cast aspersions against the previous principal. It was ridiculous that he was doing that publicly to an involved parent.”

Current foundation President Brian Robinson said, “I was on the selection committee for him being hired, and he was a very good interviewer. He had an impressive resume, and we all felt like he was a perfect fit for the school. When he got there, he was not the person we interviewed.” Robinson said that Kimbwala was uncommunicative and that campus security and student discipline were issues.

“In spite of it all, none of the problems that I saw as a parent ever got into the classroom,” said Robinson. The teachers continue to do an amazing job. They are consummate professionals. I never saw [the situation] affect my kids’ education.”

Kimbwala was previously the principal of Bloomington Middle School in the Colton Joint Unified School District. His salary at Harding is listed as between $98,428 and $110,633.


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