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Pleasant Ridge School principal ousted amid investigation

Pleasant Ridge Elementary School Principal Derek Cooper has been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation by the school district and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

“We anticipate it will be for the rest of the year,” said Pleasant Ridge Union School District Superintendent Britta Skavdahl on Friday morning. “We have an active investigation.”

At 5:31 p.m. Tuesday, a caller told the Sheriff’s Office that a pickup with a camper shell was backed up to a cargo container at the rear of the Pleasant Ridge campus, according to Sheriff’s logs.



The caller said a person was loading items into the truck and a deputy responded.

Cooper was found loading old light fixtures into the pickup by the deputy, Royal said. The principal told the deputy they had been donated to him for the school by a friend.




Cooper said he was returning the fixtures because of the district’s February vote to close Pleasant Ridge after this year, Royal said.

“We don’t know that a crime was committed,” Royal said. “Does it belong to the school or him? That’s the question.

“We still have to interview people to confirm or contradict his story,” Royal said. “If there is anything at all, it’s misdemeanor theft.”

Skavdahl said she could not discuss the specifics of the investigation because of state personnel laws.

Asked if there would be more information available in the future, The superintendent said “I can’t give you a time line at this time.”

The move to place Cooper on administrative leave was a joint decision of Skavdahl and the school board, she said.

Pleasant Ridge will be administered by two teachers, Skavdahl and Cottage Hill School Principal Scotia Sanchez for the rest of the year.

While it appears Cooper will not be back this year, his job security was in jeopardy already with the school closure vote.

The board voted to close the school to help shore up a $1.6 million district shortfall caused by declining enrollment and tax revenues.

The board also voted to explore a plan to make the Pleasant Ridge campus a home school next year, with an eye on converting it to a charter school for the 2011 – 2012 school year.

That plan is not in stone and the district’s lawyer is still working on the charter conversion provision, Skavdahl said. Because of the uncertainty, she was unsure if there would be any principal’s job to fill at Pleasant Ridge in coming years.

The Union was unable to locate Cooper for comment.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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