Parents at Madison Elementary School who demanded a new principal got their wish - at least temporarily.
Principal Shari Kirihara sent letters home with students Friday announcing she was going on medical leave after Christmas break.
Julius Presta, a retired Central Valley School District administrator, will fill in for Kirihara, who drew criticism from dozens of parents in recent years.
Parents had complained Kirihara ridiculed students, ignored allegations of physical abuse and failed to tell parents when children were being psychologically evaluated.
Each allegation was investigated and found baseless, according to Spokane School District 81 officials.
District sources have said Kirihara suffered a tremendous amount of stress from the turmoil with Madison parents.
But administrators said Friday her reason for taking medical leave was confidential and they didn’t know when she’d return.
“She’s asked for a leave of absence at her doctor’s request and has been granted that,” said Larry Parsons, director for schools in Northeast Spokane.
Kirihara will be paid as usual until her accrued sick leave runs out, said District 81 spokeswoman Laurine Jue. She wouldn’t say when that will be.
Kirihara declined comment Friday.
One disgruntled parent interpreted Kirihara’s leave as a concession from school officials.
“I am very happy the district has finally decided to honor the parents’ request,” said Nancy McLaughlin. “It’s been a long time in coming.”
But another parent was ambivalent about the surprise leave.
“I feel almost speechless at this point,” said Patti Schibel. “We’ve all worked so hard to arrive at a happy medium. Suddenly she’s sick and leaving. We wish her the best.”
Presta, a former Central Valley principal, will work alongside Jack Matthews, another former principal hired as a buffer between the upset parents and Kirihara.
On Friday, Presta “spent time with the students, so we could make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Jue.
Presta will officially take over Jan. 6.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jeanette White Staff writer Staff writer Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.