Cedar Ridge High School principal Intisar Hamidullah, who failed to report a school shooting threat in May, has been reassigned, Orange County Schools interim superintendent Randy Bridges confirmed Wednesday.

She is now an assistant principal at Gravelly Middle School. 

“I believe Cedar Ridge High School needs different leadership moving forward,” Bridges told the INDY in an email. “I appreciate Ms. Hamidullah’s commitment to Cedar Ridge as an assistant principal and principal. She and the faculty/staff and administrative team have done some positive things for children, as indicated from last year’s overall academic successes.”

Mitchell Stensland has been named interim principal at Cedar Ridge, according to the school’s website

On May 20, as the INDY first reported, Hamidullah discovered graffiti in the girls’ bathroom threatening a mass shooting at the school. She informed the school resource officer, but neither told their superiors. The SRO went on vacation the next day, and Hamidullah had a janitor paint over the graffiti, according to an OCS and Orange County Sheriff’s Office statement. 

On May 24, the graffiti reappeared in the bathroom. Hamidullah told another SRO about it—and told her that this was the third or fourth time the graffiti had been found. Still, no one informed OCS or OCSO leaders about the threat, which was supposed to be carried out on May 29. This time, however, Hamidullah did not have the graffiti removed; a student found it and sent a photo to her mother, who called 911. That night, Hamidullah alerted district officials. Parents were not informed until the following week—on May 28, after the students returned from the Memorial Day holiday. 

In a statement, then-superintendent Todd Wirt told the INDY, “We rely on our school principal to take the lead to protect our children, and without a doubt, we must do better.”

After the INDY broke this story, Hamidullah emailed an apology to Cedar Ridge parents. 

WRAL reported that the OCSO had placed two deputies on leave following this incident, though the Sheriff’s Office would not confirm whether they were the two SROs. OCS’s then-spokesman, Seth Stephens, who has since left the school district, declined to say whether Hamidullah had been disciplined. 

She did, however, return as principal at the beginning of this school year.

However, according to several Cedar Ridge parents, the first week of school was “absolute chaos.” Class assignments were botched, so for days some students sat around doing nothing. 

“Our kids have been stuck in homeroom ‘seminar’ all day because they have yet to get all the schedules corrected!” a parent emailed the INDY on August 26, the first day of school. “My kid’s first day of tenth grade has literally been a day of sleeping! This is insane!”

“What if on day two,” another parent wrote in a letter to Bridges and the school board, “your children tell you that they watched Transformers and Shark Tank all day, and that a teacher actually said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t teach anything until I know what is going on with the schedule’?  What if then you hear from a teacher friend who states that in one class he had eight students, in the next he had forty-five (same class), and ‘no one knows what is going on, teachers don’t even know their schedules.’”

About a week into the school year, Cedar Ridge told parents that the scheduling issues had been resolved. 

As of last week, however, that does not appear to have been entirely the case, according to several of school sources. One computer science teacher circulated an email to the school’s faculty, complaining after a recent faculty meeting with OCS executive director of schools Jason Johnson, “We are not being told anything. We are being treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark, only being fed BS.”

The teacher continued: “Earlier this week, when I loaded PowerSchool, I saw that my schedule for next semester was changed. I was assigned a section of Personal Finance. I have never taught this course before. … There were two problems: First, this decision was made unilaterally with no forewarning or discussion. Second, my introductory computer science was axed. I was hired, and came to [Cedar Ridge], to teach and build the computer science program, and the best way to build it is to get students introduced to the science. Again, lack of communication: Had someone come to the CTE department and said, ‘We have a crisis and we need to solve this problem,’ I have no doubt that several of us would have come up with solutions and volunteered to take on new responsibilities. I am too much a pushover. I probably could have been persuaded to teach this course. But do not blindside me with this. For this reason, I informed Ms. Hamidullah that as it stands now, I do not plan to be teaching here next semester.”

Last week, another teacher who asked that their name not be used quit: “I have been at Cedar Ridge for years and planned to retire from there. But this is not worth the anxiety and horrible treatment the teachers are receiving. More important, the students are suffering, classes are still being canceled, and students are being moved three weeks into the school year. There is no way to make that up.”

Bridges, the interim superintendent, told the INDY Thursday that there may still be some “minor adjustments” to students’ schedules, but “nothing major. However, to ensure we don’t have the same issues second semester we had at the beginning of the year, we are closely monitoring the second-semester schedule. If adjustments need to be made based on student needs and interest, that will have to be done. It’s my hope that every teacher is allowed to teach what they want to teach, but that doesn’t always happen.”

According to a third teacher, “We had an emergency faculty meeting last week for the school executives (not the principal) to tell us not to speak to parents or members of the community about this. We asked if they could at least explain what caused the fiasco and they said that once all schedules were fixed, we would go over what happened and why. That never happened, and most of us doubt it ever will. Just like last year’s threat fiasco, they prefer to pretend nothing is wrong.”

Bridges says that, while he told Jason Johnson to take an “active role” in “helping with the scheduling issue,” no one has told him the faculty were instructed not to speak with parents.

“What he said was if you are talking with anyone about scheduling issues, make sure the information you are sharing is factual,” Bridges says. 

Last week, a fourth teacher told the INDY in an email, “[Hamidullah] … is well-meaning but struggling to maintain control in a chaotic environment. I don’t believe she is the only problem; there are systemic problems here that go beyond CRHS and beyond our principal.”

Earlier this week, OCS informed the Cedar Ridge faculty that Hamidullah had been reassigned.  

Bridges says there were several factors that contributed to the scheduling snafu, but the biggest was related to the master schedule.

“We have examined how it happened, what it took to fix the problem, and what we need to do to make sure it’s doesn’t happen again,” he says.

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at jbillman@indyweek.com. 

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