A child holding a large pink heart-shaped sign that read "We love Mrs. Peterson" told only half the story at the Ventura Unified School District meeting.
The other half of the story was told by parents who said they have been complaining to teachers and district administrators for 12 to 18 months about Loma Vista Elementary School Principal Diane Peterson. They alluded to problems at the school but did not specify what they were.
During the public comment period of the board meeting Tuesday, about 10 parents stood up to defend Peterson, saying they were ready to counter what they had heard were going to be complaints about her during closed session.
Assistant Supt. Richard Averett would not confirm that the board had discussed Peterson during the closed session, nor would he say whether a formal complaint against her has been filed.
Dennis Enfield, a parent and a teacher at Ventura High School, said Peterson is "the best principal I've ever worked with." Enfield said he has attended district training sessions where he learned from Peterson and also worked with her when one of his children attended Pierpont Elementary School, where she had been principal.
But Kirt Anderson, vice president of the Loma Vista PTA, told board members that there has been "an erosion of confidence" among Loma Vista parents and teachers because of the departure of teachers and the anticipated departure of others.
"Excellent teachers put in for transfers and when we ask why they say it's because of the principal," Anderson said.
Neither Anderson nor Loren Miller, president of the Loma Vista PTA, would elaborate on the nature of the complaints.
Peterson said Wednesday that only one Loma Vista teacher has asked for a transfer. She said she does not know what all the fuss is about.
"I know they were going to discuss me," Peterson said of the school board. But, she said, "I haven't been doing anything wrong. I've been kept in the dark. I've always been here for kids and I've always been here for parents. It's my whole life and I just feel real bad about this."