Northeastern principal leaves as district refuses to provide documents

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Northeastern School District officials formally accepted the resignation this week of Peter Fernandez, the principal whose middle school was the center of a bullying controversy.

At Monday night's meeting, the school board voted to accept Fernandez's resignation and separation agreement. District officials refused to provide the document to The York Dispatch, which has filed a Right-to-Know request for it.

Fernandez and other school officials declined or have not responded to requests for comment.

Hayden Zile, 13, left, embraces her mother Deidre Carter, both of Manchester Township, during Northeastern School District’s Board of School Directors work session at the Northeastern School District Administrative Center in Manchester, Monday, March 6, 2023. During the public comment session of the meeting, Hayden and her grandmother, Michelle Long, at immediate left, spoke about the bullying that Hayden experiences at Northeastern Middle School. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Over the last few months, residents, students and staff told the board about problems in the middle school such as bullying, vandalism, lack of transparency and violence.

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During the Feb. 20 board meeting, middle school student Sydney Eschbach told the board of how she was assaulted — hit so hard she had to sit down to catch her breath. Math teacher Mattison Prematta told the board she felt like a sitting duck.

School Board President K. Mike Redding during the Northeastern School District Board of School Directors work session at Northeastern School District Administrative Center in Manchester, Monday, March 6, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At the time, Board President Mike Redding said safety is the board's number one priority and that the board was addressing the issue. He said it was a personnel matter, so he couldn’t say much. 

“When it comes to safety … you should not be afraid to go to school,” Redding said, during that meeting. “I’m sorry; it should not happen." 

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A little over a week later, Superintendent Stacey Sidle emailed parents to announce that Fernandez had been placed on leave. In late March, the school board named high school math teacher Jay Kipp as the middle school’s interim principal.

According to Fernandez’s Linkedin profile, he became the middle school principal in July 2021, previously serving as an assistant principal at Central York Middle School.

Sidle and Randi Payne, the district's assistant superintendent, announced their plans to retire at about the same time.