After nearly three decades of instructing students at Burlingame High School, economics and government teacher Kevin Nelson said he is preparing to be transferred to Aragon High School next year.
Nelson discussed with the administration at Aragon High School during a meeting Monday, March 7, the potential terms of his new position.
Should Nelson ultimately receive the transfer, it would likely mark the final chapter in a contentious personnel issue which has played out publicly, as thousands of community members have advocated for the popular teacher to keep his post at Burlingame High School.
Nelson said he is unhappy about leaving the school and community where he has educated generations of local families.
“My 27-year career is being taken apart,” he said.
Though terms are yet to be finalized, the expected transfer comes months after an ongoing dispute between Nelson and Burlingame High School Principal Di Yim grew to a head.
The two had repeatedly clashed over differences of opinion regarding education programs and the school’s culture, according to Nelson, which ultimately led to administrators informing him he would be transferred to another district campus in the coming year.
Community members rallied publicly in favor of Nelson being able to keep his job, and instead channeled their frustration toward Yim, resulting in more than 2,000 parents and students signing an online petition expressing their support for the educator in his dispute with the principal.
Just as the petition began to spread through the community, Yim abruptly announced her resignation in late January, effective at the end of the school year.
At the time, she denied her decision was compelled by the rift with Nelson, but rather was necessary to provide her more time to spend together with family.
Community members have passionately pleaded in favor of allowing Nelson to continue teaching at Burlingame High School, as the school will be under new leadership next year.
San Mateo Union High School District officials declined to comment on the future of Nelson’s employment, citing a district policy against publicly addressing personnel issues, according to spokeswoman Sheri Costa-Batis.
For his part, Nelson said he believes he is facing professional retribution for the rift with Yim, and his transfer will not solve many of the problems which have developed in the Burlingame High School community over the past few years.
“I’m the scapegoat, and my transfer is not going to solve things,” he said. “It’s a family in crisis, and it needs an intervention.”
Nelson said the crux of the problems plaguing the school community stem from parents and students feeling shut out from the decision making process at Burlingame High School, which has caused many to feel alienated and frustrated.
As he prepares to leave, and district officials set their sights on hiring a new principal, Nelson said it is integral a candidate is selected who is capable of balancing the Burlingame community’s passion and considerable expectations for the local high school.
“It takes an independent leader who understands the community’s values,” said Nelson, of the ideal candidate to lead Burlingame High School into the future.
Looking toward the opportunity to teach at Aragon High School, Nelson said he is preparing to begin educating students at the school he graduated from.
“It’s a great school, I can’t deny that,” he said.
But Nelson said he remains unhappy with his unceremonious exit from his current position.
“I live in Burlingame, five minutes from my job. I have raised my kids here and developed a lot of good will. I’ve been a baseball and soccer coach. That is a lot to give up,” he said.
The transfer is not yet official, said Nelson, and he expects attorneys hired by the district teachers’ union will continue fighting for his interest to stay at Burlingame High School.
He said he is certain community members will continue their advocacy campaign supporting him as well.
Yet despite the variety of avenues that will be pursued in an effort to keep Nelson at Burlingame High School, the educator said he is forced to consider moving into a new chapter of his career.
“If this is the end of my run, I’ve had an incredible time,” he said.
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