Teachers from TeWinkle Middle School protested a plan to reassign their principal at a school board meeting Tuesday night.
At least eight employees from the campus and one school board member complained they'd been shut out of the decision-making process.
"We were quite dismayed Friday with the announcement that our beloved principal was going to be moving," teacher Denise Newcomer said.
Despite the objections, Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees voted 5 to 1, approving the shuffle of three principals at TeWinkle, and Newport and Rea elementary schools.
School board member Katrina Foley voted against the move.
Next school year, TeWinkle's principal, Rich Rodriguez, will lead Newport Elementary, and Rea Elementary's principal, Anna Corral, will be the top administrator at TeWinkle.
The district is still considering where to assign Newport Elementary's principal, Amy Nagy. Staff will also start a search for a new principal at Rea.
Only Rodriguez's reassignment drew ire at Tuesday's meeting.
Teachers said he oversaw a period of "phenomenal growth" at the middle school and was instrumental in building a successful academic intervention program.
"Mr. Rodriguez has done a phenomenal job over the last three years to guide us in a new direction," teacher Britt Dowdy said. "And we'd like to continue that trend."
Dowdy cited three years of growth on state standardized tests, pulling the school's Academic Performance Index score up from 767 to 813, a fact TeWinkle proudly displays on its website.
"I am very excited to know that Dr. Anna Corral will be our new principal. She is a proponent of this model of education and will be a great fit for our staff, students and community," Rodriguez said in an email.
The TeWinkle teachers said they have no specific objection to Corral but worry priorities could change.
"We just want to protect what's working," teacher Kristi Jacobs said.
After the vote to move forward with the reassignment, school board Vice President Karen Yelsey said there's no expectation that the intervention program at TeWinkle will cease under a new leader.
"These decisions were not made lightly, and they were discussed extensively among us," she said.
Foley took issue with that statement, saying she'd only been included in brief talks.
She asked to be informed about any future reassignments more quickly and proposed delaying a decision about Rodriguez.
"I'm concerned that maybe we're doing it for the wrong reasons," she said, but no other board member supported her idea.
John Caldecott, Newport-Mesa's executive director of human resources, said the district routinely reevaluates principals' assignments to match their strengths with schools.
That was the reason behind this move, he said.
"Principals do not work for specific schools," Yelsey said. "We've always said that. Principals work for NMUSD as a whole, and the superintendent and staff discussed in detail what's best for every school site."