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Robert Jordan ‘steps aside’ at Justin-Siena

Ten days after the sudden and unexpected ousting of Justin-Siena principal John Bordelon, the school’s president, Robert Jordan, announced that he is “stepping aside” at the Catholic high school in Napa, effective last Friday, Nov. 3.

His Nov. 2 letter to parents announcing the news included what appeared to be a veiled remark aimed toward parents who have lobbied so passionately in support of Bordelon.

“A Lasallian school is never the work of one person,” said Jordan in the letter. “There is a danger in thinking this.”

Justin-Siena confirmed Bordelon’s immediate exit as principal Oct. 23, the first day of classes after the North Bay wildfires shut down the school for two weeks. No reason was given for the firing, however Jordan said that Bordelon’s departure was not tied to any misconduct or lawsuit.

In his most recent letter, Jordan continued to address, still without specifics, his decision to fire Bordelon.

“I acknowledge that I made a necessary but unpopular decision,” he writes. “I regret the way this decision was prematurely communicated, and that legal issues and social media prevented the school from upholding our excellent communication methods which you have become accustomed to. I also regret that the decision had to be made in the wake of the recent fires. I will continue to maintain the confidentiality around this decision as agreed, and uphold the dignity of the human person. I acknowledge that this has cost me credibility with many of you, and is a price that I am paying for upholding promises made.”

Jordan cited, as the reason for his decision to step aside, the personal attacks by members of the school community on his family.

“I am not willing to continue to take the personal attacks, abuse, and false statements about me, and more importantly, about my family,” he writes. “While I know the change in principal was heartbreaking to some, it is also heartbreaking to see many of our parents, students, and even staff members turn into people we profess not to be because they don’t have access to facts.”

Jordan noted in his letter that he will still be involved in key decision-making at the Catholic school going forward. He states that he “has agreed to assist the Board of Trustees in providing consultation services” for its property development project, its partnership with Amerigo Education and with the school’s international student program.

“I will still be engaged and involved in moving our mission forward, especially in providing alternative revenue so our school can thrive for years come,” he writes.

Parent Anthony Celaya was infuriated by Jordan’s letter.

“I am calling the letter’s bluff,” he wrote on the parent petiton website. “Rather than an ostensible letter of resignation, it is a letter of justification and accusation... And shame on the letter for accusing (students) of being entitled and calling them bullies.” Read the complete letter at tinyurl.com/y9fa72sw.

Justin Siena’s board of directors has been largely silent throughout the controversy.

On Oct. 25, Mel Preimesberger, chair of Justin's board of trustees resigned and on Nov. 3 she provided a statement outlining why.

"There has been speculation as to why I resigned, and I would like to set the record straight," she wrote. "The dismissal of the school principal and subsequent communication on behalf of the Board of Trustees collided with my beliefs of due process and transparency... Although it is true our home was lost in the Atlas Fire, that had no bearing on my resigning."

The same day that Jordan announced that he was giving up the post of president, new principal Christopher Brady, who was appointed on Oct. 26, wrote to parents that he recognized that this has been a difficult time for “some members” of the community and that he is available to meet with anyone who is “struggling with the loss of the school’s former principal.”

Brady’s letter closes with stern language about the online campaign against Jordan and in support of Bordelon.

“I am aware of comments and actions on social media and in person that are hurtful to members of our community,” writes Brady. “Such actions are unacceptable. We will not tolerate bullying, harassing behavior, conduct, and/or dialogue that is offensive. Additionally, please know you are free to choose other educational options for your child if you are unable to support Justin-Siena’s leadership decision.”

Parents say they are still seeking an explanation for Bordelon’s removal and a GoFundMe account for Bordelon launched a week ago has raised $110,069 of its $100,000 goal. The fund states that money is being raised both to make up for the financial loss to their former principal and his family and that “with the security of this money, we hope he will be able to tell his story.”

As of Nov. 6, more than 1,600 people, including 40 faculty and staff members of the school, had signed the petition demanding the immediate reinstatement of Bordelon and the removal of Jordan.

Requests for comment by the school’s board of directors and clarification on whether Justin plans to name a new president were not acknowledged by press time.

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.